Less than 24 hours before a violent, and deadly, clash Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., between alt-right protesters and a counter-protest group, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had suggested in a …
Less than 24 hours before a violent, and deadly, clash Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., between alt-right protesters and a counter-protest group, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had suggested in a telephone interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner that race relations have improved; at least, since the turbulent 1960s.
But Saturday’s violence, which both sides are blaming on the other, seemingly showed racism remains alive in America.
While visiting Memphis on Sunday to promote health care and to bring awareness to the coming 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — two days after his Banner interview — Jackson condemned the Charlottesville violence.
In a press conference held at the historic Mt. Pisgah CME Church in Orange Mound, he called on President Donald Trump to take a firm, more direct stand. Trump, who over the weekend denounced bigotry and hatred on “many sides” but stopped short of condemning by name the actions of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and alt-right leaders who are reported to have plotted the original protest in support of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a city park which municipal leaders had already voted to remove.
Although the U.S. president didn’t call out the groups by name, White House aides on Sunday issued a statement saying, Trump “of course” condemns white supremacists. In a brief speech Saturday, Trump blamed multiple sides for the weekend clash and offered his condolences to the families of those who died in connection with the incident.
The White House statement read, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday (Saturday) that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
Still, Trump’s failure to condemn the radical groups by name himself has drawn the ire of many Democratic and fellow Republican leaders in Washington, D.C.
On Sunday, Jackson stressed, “This is a very sensitive time for our country.”
Although Jackson remains hopeful that race relations will continue to improve — as he mentioned in the Banner interview Friday — he believes the man most recognized as the leader of the Civil Rights movement (King) would probably be pleased with the advances made since an assassin’s bullet ended his life in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
“In the 50 years since Dr. King’s assassination, which in some sense defined the dimensions of our struggle, we now sit together at ballgames now – we couldn’t do it at that time, and we can share public facilities,” Jackson said.
He said before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in Memphis in 1968, King said even though the right to vote had been won “there is still too much poverty.”
“We had come to Memphis for the Poor People’s Campaign, and here we are 50 years later, and from Appalachia to Delta, the areas with the richest soil have the poorest people,” Jackson said. “Now the [Trump] administration is fighting diligently to take resources from the poorest people and give a tax subsidy to the richest, which is a common culture move by the administration.”
Jackson said there is a “New South” that has developed over the years.
“We should not let people manipulate us against each other by race because we have had such progress,” he said. “You could not have Toyota and Honda and Volkswagen in the ‘Old South.’ You could not have had the Grizzlies and the Titans in the ‘Old South.’ You couldn’t sit together or play together.”
“So many walls have come down. There is no reason to live in fear on the basis of race,” Jackson said, adding with a chuckle, “We did not know how good baseball could be until everybody could play.”
“That’s true about living,” he added. “We don’t know how good life can be until all of us can live under one big tent.”
Jackson was with King the night before the assassination as King delivered one of his many iconic speeches, noting that “I can see the promised land.”
“He saw new possibilities of relationships – to go from the balcony in Memphis to the balcony in Washington where Barack Obama became president is a tremendous statement about America,” Jackson said. “What is not commonly dealt with is the crown jewel of our struggle is the protected right to vote.”
“I see the Titans play Dallas, and all people see are the colors of the uniforms and not the skin color,” he said. “The ‘New South’ industry is made possible by bringing the walls down. When the walls come down and bridges are built, great things happen.”
The Civil Rights Act was led to passage by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, working with the Senate Minority Leader Everett Dikeson of Illinois.
Jackson was asked if that kind of cooperation in politics is still possible today.
“What happened then was many of the Southern ‘Jefferson Davis Democrats’ supported slavery and segregation,” he said. “When we got the Civil Rights Act in 1964, those Democrats became Goldwater/Reagan Republicans” and “Lincoln Republicans’ became Johnson/Kennedy Democrats. It was a major shift at the time.”
“Now you have the poorest Americans trying to coalesce with the richest, with who they have nothing in common,” he said.
Jackson said Republicans made an ideological decision, “not a practical one,” to defeat any measure Obama produced as president.
He said the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “ObamaCare,” was actually that of the Massachusetts act led by 2008 Republican presidential candidate and former governor Mitt Romney.
“They plastered Obama’s name on the bill,” Jackson said. “There is no such bill. It’s the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “There are people who opposed Obama, but are for affordable health care.”
“Ideally, the best plan would be ‘single payer’ where everybody is in and nobody is out,” Jackson said of health care. “But short of that, in some of the areas the cost is too great. You can get the medicine cheaper in Cleveland, Tennessee than you can across the border in Canada. You should be able to get the best medicine at the best price with ‘free market medicine.’ That’s an example.”
He said there are people in Washington working together on that problem.
“That’s a good thing and it’s doable,” he said.
Jackson said the reason there has not been a successful repeal and replace of the Affordable Health Care Act is because it would “hurt [the Republicans’] own base.”
Jackson said although President Trump won, “he lost [the popular vote] by 3 million votes.”
He said the biggest reason was because of black voter suppression.
“It wasn’t [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, it was the Republicans hacking our votes – suppressing our votes, that became the difference,” Jackson said. “There is also an element of Republican which never gave up on the ‘Old South.’ They are anti-Martin Luther King and anti-his legacy. Those are actually the biggest beneficiaries of that legacy.”
Jackson, who has been involved in bringing Americans home from unfriendly countries, said the North Korean standoff needs to be brought to a table with the world’s nations in attendance.
“Kim Jong Il is afraid of us and we’re afraid of him,” he said. “You have two leaders driven by fear with their fingers on the trigger of mass destruction.”
“We convinced [former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to drop his weapons. He’s in the graveyard now,” Jackson said.
He said the North Korean leader is afraid of the United States because the U.S. “bombed Granada at Christmastime. We bombed Panama in the heart of the city. We violated international law in Iraq.”
“On the other hand, we were afraid of them,” he said.
“Since you have this ‘recycling fear,’ it seems to me the United Nation’s role is to bring these countries together to work out a relationship,” Jackson said. “North Korea has now entered the nuclear zone and they cannot be ignored.”
“Every time we put another economic strangulation on them, it incites more fear and more missiles,” he said. “The Bible says there will be peace in the valley when the lion and the lamb lie together. It seems absurd, but the lion and the lamb have something in common like the U.S. and North Korea who do not want to get hit with missiles.”
Returning to the domestic scene, Jackson spoke of the days when colleges like Alabama and Clemson would not allow African- Americans to attend their schools.
“My heart rejoices when I see those teams play,” he said, “It’s now orange-and-white versus red-and white instead of skin color. That’s the ‘New South.’”
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