GATES: Did you ever talk to Dr. King about the Panther movement and the more
militant groups that were around when he was alive?
JACKSON: Indeed we talked on that.
But we talked about the futility of violence, just in terms of strength. To
take on this country militarily may be more suicidal than militant. It may be
more desperation than some strategy that will work. And so if one was to fight
a violent war against this country, the great powers of the world, even
Russia, would not dare try that. And so [inaudible] understood these
imitations of violent revolution, in reality that did not happen, because the
government had too many ways of cracking down on people and arresting people.
And indeed they did that.
My concern was even then that the Panthers were imitating by and large third
world models like Cuba or like Che Guevara, who was very popular at that time.
But of course, in Cuba they could go into the hills. They could engage in
various forms and forums that you could not use in urban America. To me, Dr.
Gates, it's almost like now where many of our youth, rather than, say, follow
the model of, say, Dubois or Dr. King or Malcolm or Medgar, while they wear
all of the black paraphernalia, they in fact are following white leadership.
I mean, when you watch many of our young rich rappers who are killing each
other now, and they are young [Tupac] and Notorious [Big] were millionaires.
They were famous. But who were their role models? Scar-Face Nelson, Al
Capone, or Godfather. They were not following a tradition of survival and
expansion. In fact, while all the paraphernalia was black and the imagery,
they in fact were following, violent white role models: the idea of walking
in a restaurant with your hood on, and your glasses at night, in a kind of
intimidating style. So it was clear to me then and now that it was not race
that killed them. It's more about a lifestyle. And Dr. King challenged a
lifestyle of self-destructive behavior that was no strategy for changing
GATES: Well, Reverend Jackson, when I was growing up, the blackest thing you
could be in our community was Thurgood Marshall or Dr. King. But I recently
read the results of a Gallup poll of inner-city black children in Washington,
that asked them to list 'things white. ' And on that list were: getting
straight A's, speaking standard English even going to the Smithsonian
Institute. How did our people move into this terrible place that you described
JACKSON: Well one factor may be that we are products of genetics, of nature
and environment. And while our nature's not changed very much, our environment
has changed so radically.
For example, this generation by age 15 have watched 18,000 hours of television.
They've listened to more than 22,000 hours of radio and video, as compared with
11,000 hours of school and less than 3,000 hours of church, temple, or
synagogue. This means that the mass media quantitatively has more access to
their minds and qualitatively penetrates more deeply than home, church, and
So you don't see on their t-shirts the pictures of judges or professors or
doctors or lawyers or chemists or computer scientists. You see programmed
into their minds images of people who are violent or who are marginalized.
Even the wearing of the baggy britches hanging we can see their shorts in such
perfect view. Or when $200 Nike tennis shoes made for $10 a pair in Indonesia,
without the strings. Well, what does that style come from? It comes from
jail. That's recycled jail culture, where they cannot wear belts because they
may hang themselves or hurt themselves or hurt someone. Or they can't have
strings in their tennis shoes. They may do the same. So when you find youth
having jail culture recycled into them, it is almost as if you're eating your
own vomit. It's a kind of recycled sickness.
And you look at these ebonics shows on Thursday nights where you basically
have white writers with black actors, giving a stereotypical marginalized view
of black America. And we have youth who are learning to live out of that
reality, and talk that way, and walk that way, and aspire that way. But they
are then programmed, so much so until if you say, "Well, well, what about Dr.
Skip Gates, the professor at Harvard, or Dr. Cornell West? Like who are they?
So they are in some sense being defined by a by a mass media culture that is
as programmed in a racist way as was Amos and Andy - with white writers
projecting a certain view of black life. The media projects us in five or six
deadly ways every day.
And this is a big factor in our mindset. We're projected as less
intelligent than we are, less hard-working than we work, less universal than we
are, less patriotic than we are, more violent than we are, and less worthy than
we are. That is a basic, steady stream of programming. So the impact of
cultural marginalization and cultural decadence is having a devastating impact
upon the minds of children, who consume so much of it.
GATES: But what do we do about it?
Jackson: One must challenge that violent culture. One must challenge those
stereotypes. At least you must know, as a professor, that there's a
competition for the minds of our children. You teach four, five, ten, twelve,
twenty students. And mass media is teaching by the tens of thousands.
JACKSON: And it's winning. And not only is it conditioning our youth toward
recycling violence; it's also immunizing them away from the pain of drugs as a
threat to their lives. It is immunizing them from the pain of even death,
where many of our young people now who are planning their funerals, what kind
of funeral they're going to have. That is a mindset. And the more you focus
on sex without love, and drugs and violence, lifestyle of intimidation and
recycling, the less energy you spend on opening up the big tent.
After all, what Thurgood Marshall and Dr. King and Medgar Evers was about, was
fighting for the American dream. What is the American dream? The American
dream is one big tent: [Of the many, we are one]. One big tent. And on that
big tent you have four basic promises: equal protection under the law, equal
opportunity, equal access, and fair share. Historically, we have been in the
margins outside of that tent. Now, while in the margins, you can either adjust
to the margins as if that is your plight and God will fix it after a while; you
can glorify it as our own unique culture, therefore drop my buckets
where I am (a conservative approach, a reactionary approach, a frightened
approach); or you can demand your share of the tent. And that's where
confrontation takes place, because as you seek to open the gates to get inside
the big tent, where the opportunities are, where education is, where health
care is, where wealth is, that's the point of confrontation. Those powers that
control the tent are not threatened at all by any activity that you engage in,
in the shadows, that's not moving toward the tent. And I am rather convinced
that we have a generation that is so preoccupied with life in the shadows, they
never even focus on getting to the sunlight where you open up the big tent.
GATES: I think you're absolutely right.
JACKSON: And I think that what many whites do, of course, is that when they
look at us in the stunted growth pattern, they say, "Well, we pour money
there. We do things. They don't seem to grow. What's wrong with them?"
Well, if you have a lawn and plant two seeds of equal power, and one stem grows
taller and one flowers brighter, and one sweet one fruit is sweeter, there's
nothing wrong with the seed. It's that when the wall is there, the one that
gets the sunlight grows. The one in shadows does not grow. So that's not
about race and genetics. That's about photosynthesis. And so pulling walls
down that each of us might have access to the same sunlight, is a defining
I would make another case, Dr. Gates. At this point, while there's a focus
on the race gap the bigger gap today is the class gap.
JACKSON: The bigger gap is between those who have access of sunlight and those
in the shades. Can you imagine that today, that we have gone full circle on
using property tax as the basis for determining who gets access to the American
dream? When they wrote the Constitution, only white male landowners had the
right to vote.
JACKSON: And they had the gifts that come from politics. So whites who
didn't own land couldn't vote. And their wives, women, their mothers, their
daughters couldn't vote. African Americans, considered three-fifths of a
human, couldn't vote. Native Americans, native Americans could not live. But
they used property tax as the basis for determining who had access to the
American dream. So they had really democratic ideals with aristocratic
So now in 1997, we say: Well you fund schools based upon property tax. Well,
the top one percent has more wealth than the bottom 90. Those who have the
most wealth and the most property, their children have the first, the best, and
JACKSON: And the system runs right down, so one group ends up going ... to
Glenbrook South School, 96 percent going to college, 98 percent graduate.
They're going to Yale. You go right to the inner city school without a library
or the inadequately staffed schools. In that group, 60 percent drop out, and
they're going to jail.
Jackson: So there's great disparity between who goes to college and who goes to
jail. Who lives long and who dies prematurely, is the defining issue of our
time. And I submit to you, there's a significant race dimension, it is
GATES: I agree. And I want to explore that the class differentials now. .....
Andrew Young thinks that the threat of a coalition between poor blacks and poor
whites is what led directly to Dr. King's assassination. Do you agree with
JACKSON: Well, it could have been a factor. The demonizing of Dr. King was
certainly a factor by the government. The government was a heavy handed force.
Taping of his telephone conversations trailing him or sending releases to the
news media to have him attacked.
The second factor was that the move toward a massive coalition of working class
people in some sense, labor did that. The only reason you could really
organize labor union was to offset one group being pitted against the other
group as strike breakers. So I'm not sure that shift was the cause, but
perhaps it was a factor. One thing I'm convinced of that working class white
people and working class black people and brown people have more in common with
each other than they do with those who, in fact, downsize corporations,
and what they call right-size, or what some might call downsize and out-source
jobs. Wealth going upward benefits and jobs going downward, and jobs going
outward, is threatening all of us. And to that extent, I think our whole
language has to reflect more class inclusion.
For example the welfare debate has been stimulated or fed by images of race.
The reality is, most poor people are not on welfare. Most poor people work
every day. They raise other people's children. They catch the early bus.
They drive cabs. They work in fast-food restaurants. They process They work
processing chicken at these meat plants. They work in hotels and
motels. Most poor people work every day. So the charge that they are lazy or
they need stimulation to work harder, is not true.
Secondly, most poor people are not black. Most on welfare are not black.
They're not brown. They're white. They're female, and two-thirds are
children. Black poverty did not stimulate the safety net. Roosevelt raised
the idea of the safety net in the thirties. Poverty had a white face. These
long lines of poor whites and so no one could race-bait Roosevelt on the
question of a safety net. Matter of fact, blacks got in the caboose of the
poverty train. For a long time, we couldn't not even qualify to get on
Roosevelt's poverty train, as it were.
So I remember distinctly in 1960, a John Kennedy held up a black baby in his
arm in Harlem. And the press dismissed it cynically. They said, "Well, one
of these liberal guys from Boston, up north. He kind of talks funny. He's
trying to get the Adam Powell's vote. He's chair of the of a powerful
committee. And this is a symbolic gesture." It was kind of dismissed out of
hand. A Robert Kennedy held up a white baby in his arm in the Appalachian
region of West Virginia. And that baby's belly was bloated. That baby's nose
running. That baby's eyes running water. The imagery of Robert Kenney and
that white baby in West Virginia triggered the War on Poverty, not the black
baby in Harlem held up by John Kennedy. Even white southerners like
Hollingsworth then helped lead the way for addressing white poverty, but could
not exclude blacks in the process.
That means to me, if we will strategically de-racialize the welfare debate,
and whites in the face of poverty take Reagan's black welfare clean imagery off
of its face, then we'll begin to see in clearer terms the impact of cutting
that safety net without an alternative. The same is true of the whole
Affirmative Action debate. You put a black face on it.
You notice lately, the debate at the Citadel, trying to get white women into
the Citadel, and then to enter Virginia Military Institute? You've not heard
any of the right wing attack the judges for being activist for those rulings.
Do you recall? You've not heard any attack on those white women as displacing
white male students who are there.
JACKSON: Well those women are going to VMI and the Citadel on the basis of
Affirmative Action, Title IX. So when you add Title IX, white women and women
of various hues, and Title VI, people of color, plus the physically disabled,
Affirmative Action is a majority issue, not a minority issue.
GATES: No one's benefited more from Affirmative Action than white American
women, without a doubt.
JACKSON: Well, the white American family, --because 35 percent of our
workforce is white male. If white women and women of various hues and people
of color were not trained, we would have to do what? We would have to import
labor. So -- it's a black-white issue over Bakke in California, argument that:
why would a less qualified black displace a more qualified white male, you've
got this to and fro. You hear none of those arguments about VMI or about the
And that's why, in California this past summer, we were able to convene
through the Rainbow, Patricia Ireland from NOW and Delores Fuerte from United
Farm Workers and a vast body of white women and blacks and browns. We
began to change the definition of 209 from a white-black issue to: those who
are locked out, trying to get in for legitimate purposes. That's why Clinton
ultimately supported the position against 209. That's why the judge ultimately
ruled against 209, because Affirmative Action is not an issue that should threaten to the
violence based upon race. It's a chance for those who have been locked out to
get in, and then to do what? Make a contribution.
Watch the walls come down, whether it's in the South or on Wall Street. When
the walls come down, what do we find? More markets, more talent, more capital
and growth. Which means that the race and sex discrimination stunt economic
growth. It's not good for capitalism. It's not good for America's growth.
And it's not morally right.
GATES: As you look back on it, what happened to that campaign? And is there
any way for us to get that effort back on track?
JACKSON: Well, in a real sense, Dr. King was attacked by the government, for
that effort. I remember being with him on the last Saturday morning before his
death. He and Dr. Abernathy called a staff meeting in Atlanta. And he said,
"I've had a migraine headache for three days, and because I've been attacked
even by members of my board, by friends who are saying that we are shifting
from civil rights to the war in Vietnam," he says. "And the real case is, the
war in Vietnam is taking away resources from the War on Poverty." He said,
"That's the real case, there." He said that the reality is, there will be no
full employment and growth on the black side of town or the brown side of town,
if there's not growth on the white side of town. He said, "So pulling people
together from Indian reservations and barrios and ghettoes and labor and blacks
and Jews, is so much the right thing to do."
He said, "I thought once about turning back, because I have done a lot," he
said, "in thirteen years." He said, "But if I turn back, people like Dubois
and Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Medgar Evers, they wouldn't
understand. So I can't turn back." He said, "I thought once, maybe if I would
just fast to the point of death, that Rap and Stokely and Floyd and Jim
Foreman, those John Lewis, those of us who are friends but may have
disagreements on tactics, we could at least come together. Maybe I could just
at this point maybe move toward becoming president of Morehouse College." Then
he said, "But we must turn a minus into a plus. We must go on. We cannot go
backwards." He had this tremendous agony about this move of pulling together a
massive coalition focusing on social justice, on racial justice, on gender
equality. He knew then, as we know now, that people who are working are more
secure. People who have futures secure for their children are better people.
And so that was the that was his way of driving out driving out the fear.
If you look at the people who have now been burning churches and who have
been defacing synagogues, these are basically downsized workers. These are
workers who are living outside of the mainstream of America's dream, of
America's opportunity. And they've somehow been taught that those jobs went
from white to black or brown, that they went from men to women; these jobs,
they went from blacks to Jews and from whites to Jews. So all the racism and
the anti-semitism and the sexism comes into the ignorance, fear, hatred,
violence. The fact is, when these plants closed, they didn't go from white to
black. They went from here to yonder. That's why we have to look at the
global picture, as he taught us.
I was in Indonesia this past summer, and I saw people making Nike and Reebok
tennis shoes. I saw 6,000 women, not one with a pair of shoes on, making these
shoes for 30 cents an hour, $2.40 a day. The leader Pak Mahan who tried to
lead us on the tour, trying to organize unions, he was arrested. Miss
Megalarty was under government interrogation for challenging that regime.
$2.40 a day, for making these $150-$200 pair of Nike and Reebok tennis shoes.
They were making $5.00 a day in Korea and Taiwan, so they shipped it to
Indonesia where they make $2.40. Now they want to go to China, where they make
50 cents a day.
So in a real sense, workers black and white and brown should turn to each
other, not on each other, and fight for a fair trade policy, fight for
reciprocal trade policy, ... and begin to judge corporations by their
investment policy, and not turn on each other on basis of race. And that's the
real challenge for us today.
GATES: If we think about the demographics affecting the black community in
1968--let's say the day Dr. King was killed, and now-- the results are quite
paradoxical. On the one hand, we have the largest black middle class that
we've ever had in history.
It doubled in the 1980's alone. And on the other hand, 45 percent of
all black children live at or beneath the poverty line. How did we get to this
paradoxical result? And what do we do about it?
JACKSON: Well, that just means that more blacks have jobs. It does not mean
that many more blacks have wealth or control of production. For example, Dr.
Gates, the latest census shows that of the ten-plus million African Americans
who are working almost 2.3 or 5 work for the government. An astounding number.
And half of those have college degrees. And that does not include blacks who
are policeman and fireman or in the military.
So you may be looking at 25 to 30 percent of our workforce working for the
government, compared to one percent of whites. Add to that blacks who work for
government-related industries. You can see when you talk about downsizing
government, you're cutting into the heart of black community's middle class.
When you downsize government and out-source corporations that involve mass
labor, like Zenith and Sunbeam and the like, and add to that tightening up on
Affirmative Action, and cut welfare.
Do you hear what I have just said? A kind of four-corner cut: downsize
government, out-size out-size corporations stymie welfare stymie Affirmative
Action, cut welfare. And because of that box, we now must put a renewed focus
on Wall Street, the capital of capital, because we have been locked out of
access to capital and wealth growth.
A few more blacks have jobs 30 years later, but not measurably more
wealth creation in these 30 years. These blacks would not have a job working
for a company we used to--could not work for. They don't have enough gap
between their wealth and starvation, to really help somebody else, because
they're treading water for the most part, themselves. And so I think it's far
easier to say, "Well, we got more blacks who now have a job, or who are now in
the middle class, who are making a house payment. And the men and women are
working, and they're sending their children to school. Why don't they help
those who they left?" Well, that assumes people at that level of marginal
middle classism have the resources to in fact reach back. They, in fact, are
And it takes focus off of those, in fact, who really are engaging in massive
boycotts. Black America suffers from a massive trade deficit. That's why
we're trapped so much on aid, because we're locked out of trade.
I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, the textile center of the world. I
cannot think of, right now, a black in my entire life who is anything in the
textile industry except one who has picked cotton or who works in the mills,
who may not be an administrator. I don't know a black who owns an outlet store
of faulty clothes from a textile industry, or furniture making, or steel, or
energy, or telecommunication, or food market industry, or agri-business.
That's, bounding redlining, banking redlining, insurance redlining.
Dr. Gates, the world of private capital and wealth is very much off limits for
us. And at this stage, that is our challenge: to open up the doors and bring
down the walls on Wall Street, begin to fight for our share of capital and
GATES: We've seen a lot of books recently that basically can be
characterized as being nostalgic about the good old days of segregation, the
forties, the fifties. And even my own memoir is very nostalgic about that
period. Do you think that our people really are better off today than they
were 20-30 years ago?
JACKSON: Of course we're better off. When the children of Israel were in
this journey from Egypt to Canaan, they had a comfort zone in Egypt because
they'd been there 400 years. Their certain familiar patterns of behavior and
life was fairly predictable. Work hard and not get paid, and adjust to
reasonable abuse, and go to temple and synagogue, and die, and live in that
cycle. And so Moses said at some point: We can not just engage in social
service and religious maintenance. We must make a dash toward a new public
policy. We must go toward Canaan, the land of liberation. And all And it
took him a long time to convince people to leave the comfort zone of slavery
and take the responsibilities of becoming free people. When Dred Scott made a dash off the plantation, that was not a group exodus . That was a guy
GATES: That's right.
JACKSON: --who dashed to freedom. And so Moses led this group. And
between Egypt and Canaan, they complain. Say, "Out here in this wilderness,
see, this is tough out here. We don't have any pharaoh to look over us. We
don't have any kind of a social support of our square meals every day. And
here we are out here on our own, and got to think this stuff through. At least
back in Egypt we could eat. At least we knew each other. At least there was a
comfort zone back there." So it's not unlike people who are in a journey to
freedom, to have these nostalgic moments looking back at some comfort zone
within the context of slavery.
But I submit to you, I would not trade our opportunities today and our
challenges today for yesterday. Yesterday when we had I grew up in
Greenville. I never saw a black policeman in my entire life, or a black
fireman, or blacks selling clothes on downtown Main Street. I could not go to
Furman University. I grew up on University Ridge. I could not go to Clemson,
the University of South Carolina.
I mean, good old days?
Had to go to the back of the bus. A sign above the driver's head read,
"Colored seat from the rear, whites seat from the front. Those who violate
will be punished by law." Good old Good old days? No black school board
members? Never a black school superintendent? Not one black judge? Good old
days? Give me a break!
Let us think about today's challenges and today's opportunities. We cannot
go forward looking backwards. We must accept these challenges. And today, oh,
when we have the power We freed Haiti. We couldn't have done that in the
good old days....We freed South Africa. We could not have done that in the
good old days. Oh, the good old days, we couldn't play professional
JACKSON: We did not dominate the sport. Now we must go from on the field
to management and ownership. Those are today's challenges. When you look at
today's opportunities as compared to yesterday's opportunities, we must go
GATES: I think your move to Wall Street is crucial.... Scholars identify the
causes of poverty as being both structural and behavioral. And you've been
quite eloquent about the structural causes of poverty and structural solutions
for those causes. What about the behavioral problems-- the problems within the
black community that we need to address, ourselves?
JACKSON: Well, people who are victims of structural equality do have
predictable behavior patterns. People who recycle despair are different than
people who recycle hope. People who look forward to a minimal job or
subsistence have a different dream cap than those who inherit wealth. And so
yeah, there are patterns of behavior in this cycle that are that are painful.
If you were in Chicago on a given day, look by the United Center where Michael
Jordan plays basketball, and went to the south side, where the White Sox play
baseball, or and you went to Cook County Jail to the west, between these three
mountains In every city I visit, I see a new ball new ballpark and a new
jail. Your town, there's a new glamour flama jail downtown and a new ballpark
or a new Boston Gardens.
Now, between those three institutions used to be International Harvester and
Spiegels, and used to be Stockyard Inns, and there was massive urban industry
during that time. Do you follow me so far? In those cases, the parents had
jobs, created a tax base. The youth had first class education. Now, in the
absence of jobs, parents on subsistence, tax base down, schools falling down,
and the number one growth industry for our students happen to be jails. In
that cycle, therefore, of joblessness for parents and second class schools and
poverty abounding, there are predictable patterns of behavior, because they
have they live in dream deficits. They have dream caps. That's why the walls
must come down.
I led a group of superintendents on a tour not long ago. Went to a place
called Glenbrook South about 30 minutes to the north. In that school, Dr.
Gates, they have 40 janitors, $24,000 to $40,000 a year. That's why the school
is basically clean. They have people hired to keep it clean. Teachers' pay,
average, $65,000 plus benefits. That's why they have a stable teaching force.
You have people with Ph.D.'s teaching there because they make more money than
some of you who are teaching in college, for example.
In that school they had high-tech math computer labs, so they would connect
slow learners with high tech computers, let the computer be extensions of the
brain. Or in the library, behind every stall was a computer. Or if you will,
a Olympic-size swimming pool. And that gym connected with a field house. I
mean, the school is the school-industrial complex. In the papers, they
advertise "home for sale, near Glenbrook North or South .
Contrast that. Come to the inner city, 30 miles to the south. In the schools
are teachers paid about one-third less. Many of them are not computer-ready.
If they wire them, they got to go through asbestos and lead paint. And they
have not wired them. A teacher turnover sometime of 30 percent. Dropout rate,
60 percent. Not one with a swimming pool. By the way, that school had 85
paid coaches on their payroll, for example.
So you got youth who are in computer-ready schools, and students in schools
where the plaster's falling. At the end of 12 years, they take an exam. One
goes out the roof. One goes to the floor. That is savage structural
inequality, according to Jonathan Kozol, and he is right.
And so while Mr. Clinton says we want higher goals, we agree. High
expectations, we agree. But democracy does not guarantee that all of us can
dunk the ball. It guarantees all those can have the right to dribble. It
assumes an even floor, an even playing field. And today, that even playing
field is not there. And therefore, equal funding for public education, whether
the government closes the gap, whoever, the gap must be closed, because equal
opportunity will tend to lead to better and more equal results. Lack of equal
opportunity leads to more predictable downward results.
There's nothing wrong with our genes and nature. There's something
basic about an assumption of equality of opportunity that, in fact, does not
GATES: Do you think, in your heart of hearts, that we can make corporate
capitalism sufficiently humane to accommodate the structural inequality in this
JACKSON: Well you can have bias in socialism. You can have inhumanity in
socialism. You can have racist socialism. You can have fascist socialism.
And so at the end of the day, you may live in capitalism or socialism, but
your own private ethical values determine what you do with your wealth. Do you
have enough vision to re-invest in the flower that you are , so we can
continue to grow? That would be a good thing. That's why incentives for
capital re-investment are important. Bill Cosby and Camille made a lot of
money. They put $20 million in Spellman . A sense of humanity. Willy Gary
down in Florida, a very poverty-stricken kid who went to Shaw University, and
that's the only school that would accept him. North Carolina Central, went to
law school, went back to school at 40. He did well, began to make money. He
gave $10 million to Shaw and bailed Shaw out. And so these are capitalists,
but their sense of humanity determines the priorities that they have in the
It's not fair to say, it seems to me, that a given economic system can make
you more humane, or just being humane without a way to generate capital will
make you stable and secure. There's always that dynamic, it seems to me,
between the individual and whatever system one finds herself in.
GATES: Reverend Jackson, Maulana Karenga says that the issue facing black
people in America today is not economics, but how to recover our position as
the country's moral vanguard. Do you agree with that? And if so, what do we
do about it?
JACKSON: I think what Dr. Karenga's saying is that our greatest
strength historically has not been our numbers, our dollars, or our guns, but
the rightness of our cause. Rosa Parks, when she refused to go to the back of
the bus, she did not have a gun. Or she did not have a Ph.D. degree. She was
mostly morally right. The rightness of her cause She was not arrested for
being vulgar, or for fighting somebody on the bus, or when they immediately
checked her record, they checked her quote, unquote , "her moral worthiness".
If she had been, a prostitute a dope dealer or something, they would have
used that to rationalize why she shouldn't have had a right to sit on the front
of the bus. But it's her sense of holiness and moral rightness became a
weapon. The students who marched to end the apartheid laws were mostly morally
right. While we used in some cases demonstrations as a tactic, or boycotts as a
tactic, what drew the world's attention to us, we were mostly morally right.
Apartheid was wrong.
I remember Dr. King getting the Nobel Peace Prize, and President Johnson gave
him a White House reception, and said how great he was, and all that. Dr.
King said, "Thank you very much, but our people deserve the right to vote."
And Lyndon Johnson said, "Dr. King, you know I like you. I like you very much.
The fact is, I know what you're going to say, that I have all these powers,
that I can I can push a red button, I can stop and start wars. But I can't
grant you the right to vote. I just can't do it unilaterally. Bad news: I
can't, and Congress won't. So you can't have the right to vote." That's what
the President told Dr. King.
We went from there to Selma. Those who withstood the billy clubs and the
cattle prods, whose blood represented a kind of crucifixion, it was the purity
of their blood and the rightness of our cause. We did not get the right to
vote because we shouted out or because we cursed it out. We were mostly
morally right. So this weapon of morality is critical. That's why, when
people are killed or jailed Mandela's power is mostly the moral rightness of
his cause. He didn't shoot his way out of jail. It was the rightness of his
And so I think Dr. Karenga is right. And so I say to the young generation who
are now engaging in such self-destructive behavior, in some sense symbolized by
the death of Tupac, the death of Notorious Big is that there are some
lifestyles that are now being embraced that are not morally sound. They're not
good. They are not healthy.
There's a story in the Bible of a man who hung around the graveyard. He slept
in the graveyard. That's abnormal behavior, to hang around tombstones and to
hang around the bones of dead people, and then to attack other people who would
come to visit their relatives' remains in the graveyards. Said, "What's your
name?" Said, "Just call me legion. I'm just out here hanging around.
When you begin to call yourself "nigger with an attitude" and call yourself
"notorious" and call yourself "bitch" and "whore", that's a level of demeaned
degeneracy. That's a kind of surrender. That's not moral authority. And so
somehow the tradition of Malcolm saying, "I once was lost but now I'm found,"
of Dr. King saying, "Walk in dignity and not ride in shame," of Du Bois
affirming the greatness of our humanity, that tradition must be embraced again.
These two young men who were killed, were not obscure. They were very well
known. They were not poor. They were millionaires. They were not
killed, it seemed, by whites, but rather by other blacks. So it seems that
lifestyle is why they are dead, not because race or poverty or obscurity.
If they could somehow manage the energy that they have and that talent,
and use that to begin to demand laptop computers, demand equal funding for
public education, demand our share of access to Wall Street, demand our share
of justice and a and a budget for African development and Caribbean
development, demand an end to access to guns and violence and drugs, there are
great things of our time.
Demand that young men who make babies raise them, and that we have a sense of
stable families. These are the morally sound agenda items of our time. If our
generation of youth embraced those issues Dr. Karenga, I think, is essentially
right the morality of our cause will give us moral authority and strength and
delivery and victory.
GATES: What happened to the powerful liberal coalition that was behind the
political successes of the Civil RIghts movement back in the 60's - can we get
it back again?
JACKSON: That coalition has saved Affirmative Action. That coalition sent
Aristide back to Haiti. That coalition gained Mandela's freedom in South
Africa. That coalition led to a new Middle East policy. And so in a broad
stroke, that basic progressive coalition which is allied strongly with labor
and working place people may take on different forms.
I thought one of the things that was missed by the media in my campaign for
the Presidency-- in Iowa in 1988, a state about 98 percent white, I got more
votes than Vice-President Gore or Babbitt in Iowa, because those basic
farmers and workers are and urban blacks, our agendas converged. I got more
votes than Gore or Babbitt in New Hampshire. I beat them in the South. I
beat them in New York City. And I can't think of a big city in the country,
whether LA or New York or Chicago or where it was not that coalition that won
So again I say, we must not be quick to despair. We really look around.
While there are some new economic dynamics with the globalization of the
economy and out-sourcing corporations and wealth poverty polarization,
there's a lot to be hopeful for. Maybe the biggest adjustment we must make now
We have spent so much time on a black/white vertical analysis, there's not been
enough focus on a vertical "have/have not" coalition. We do not want to
discuss race much in the country. We want to discuss class even less. Because
somehow to discuss classism suggests that we're challenging the very heart of
our of our system, of our way of life.
But I submit to you that a coalition will emerge, demanding jobs with
security, demanding equal protection under the law, demanding equal
opportunity, demanding equal access, demanding fair share. Those are the basic
imperatives of the of the American dream.