Interview with Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity)


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 public policy.

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 so well?

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 school combined.

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.

GATES: Right.

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 moment.

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.

GATES: Right.

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 cultural values.

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 the most.

GATES: Right.

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.

GATES: Right.

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 basically class-driven.

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 that?

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.

GATES: Right.

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 Citadel.

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 holding on.

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 wealth creation.

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 basketball.

GATES: Right.

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 forward.

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 exist.

GATES: Do you think, in your heart of hearts, that we can make corporate capitalism sufficiently humane to accommodate the structural inequality in this country?

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 economic system.

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 cause.

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 those positions.

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.

Jackson became the first viable black candidate for the U.S. presidency in 1984 and 1988.   He worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Corps, and has fought for

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