Rev. Jesse Jackson: Take Down the Confederate Flag -- and White Supremacist Culture with It

June 26, 2015


Jesse Jackson

civil rights leader, and president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Outside the wake for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Amy Goodman interviews civil rights leader and South Carolina native Rev. Jesse Jackson, who says of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, "The question is, is this an embarrassment, or is it transformational?" Jackson argues efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol shouldn’t stop there. "If you still have less access to voting, it’s not a good deal. If the flag comes down and you still have racial profiling … it’s not a good deal," Jackson says.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: So many people have gathered in this Southern city. I wanted to turn now to Reverend Jesse Jackson. We saw him last night just as he had come out of the church paying last respects to Reverend Pinckney.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think that the emotions are high. People seem to be rallying to each other in unusual ways. The question is, is this embarrassment, or is it transformational? If this had happened in the next state over, would there be the same amount of fervor? Black men, unarmed, are being shot down. We see in this state, for example, Brother Pinckney was fighting to deal with too much easy access to guns.

In this state, 350,000 people have no health insurance, and one quarter of the state is in poverty, and yet they reject $10 billion in Medicaid, with one again in the Supreme Court just today. Twenty-five percent of the population is African-American, and 75 percent of the prison population is African-American, and 20 percent of those do prison labor for 30 to 80 cents an hour. South Carolina state is on the verge of closing because of lack of state investment.

So it seems to me, if we’re going to deal with the issue of poverty and the issues that matter, it must be a transformational moment, not just a kind of embarrassment so we can keep a false face on good news and tourism.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on the Confederate flag?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: The Confederate flag must come down, or trade must go down. It must be a substantial boycott. And it just can’t apply to South Carolina. You know, the flag represents secession from the United States of America. It represents sedition, an attempt to violently overthrow the government; slavery as a form of economic development; states’ rights over federal rights; and suppression of the rights of women. It’s racist to the extent that it’s white supremacy, male supremacy, anti-black, anti-gender equality, anti-Semitic, because of religious supremacy. So this thing is a little deeper than just racism. It is anti.

And the Confederates won some significant concessions when the war was over. First concession it won was the right to maintain their dignity. None of them were indicted, all were pardoned, though they tried to overthrow the government. The second concession they won was the right to control—the right to get paid for the slaves they had to give up. The third concession was they got the right to control the votes. We got the vote in the 1870s, didn’t get it back ’til 1965. The right to control the rights of women. They got the right to control healthcare, education and labor and voting. So that the concessions that the Confederates won were substantial.

And to this day, there’s not a—just this state is 45 percent African-American, not one black-owned business in downtown Charleston. So I am not impressed with the "Kumbaya" moment unless there is some plan for financial investment and a budget alteration. If the flag comes down, but you still have less access to voting, it’s not a good deal. If the flag comes down and you still have high race profiling and blacks go to jail at a rate three times that of whites, it’s not a good deal. The question is, are the bankers out here—or will they increase bank lending, and a more effective use of pension funds? What will it be to become cretinous beyond this moment of passion?

AMY GOODMAN: Now, but as people came to Columbia to the state House to see Reverend Pinckney, the state senator laying in state, first African-American since Reconstruction to lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, they had to pass the Confederate flag. Do you think Nikki Haley, the governor, could have just taken it down like the governor of Alabama did?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I’m not sure she could do that technically. I think she’s taken a very public position, which I think is a very decent position that Nikki Haley has taken. It’s the right position. Now Senator Graham has taken that position, and Senator Scott has taken that position. Romney has taken that position. But we must not only change the Confederate flag. We must change the Confederate agenda. The agenda is anti-black, with white male supremacy. The agenda is anti-Semitic, with religious supremacy. The agenda is anti-female, will not pass the Equal Rights Amendment for women. We must have an agenda.

The Confederates need to rejoin America. They need to rejoin the Union. They must make a bigger decision than take down the flag. They must rejoin the Union of states. Three hundred and fifty thousand people without health insurance in this state, a quarter of the state in poverty, and they reject $10 billion in Medicaid on a nine-to-one ratio? That’s a low investment for high returns. There is so much [inaudible]. This is the same state where the congressman, Wilson, called the president a liar, and where the congressman went home and raised $2 million that weekend, where Susan Smith killed her two babies in the water up in Union, South Carolina. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Greenville, South Carolina.

She killed those two babies and said that a black man did it who didn’t even exist. So that we cannot settle for cheap rates when the matter is so serious.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re standing on Calhoun Street right in front of Mother Emanuel.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Another slaveholder, and it runs right into Meeting Street, where they sold our people. This place is dripping with a kind of indecency, a kind of barbarism. I mean, slavery, 246 years, was real. And the extension of slavery was even worse, in many ways, because at least slavemasters tried to protect the health of their slaves enough for them to work and reproduce. But after slavery, when slavocracy lost to democracy and kept the political and military power, 4,000 blacks were lynched, 163 lynched in this state without one indictment, often carried out by judges and police. And so the depth of resentment and meanness and toxicity here must not be played down.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on Dylann Roof being in the Charleston jail, as is Officer Michael Slager, who gunned down Walter Scott, the African-American man who was running away from him, and he shot him in the back, in North Charleston?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: One man shot in the back running, another nine more shot in the church across the street, so 10 blacks are dead, two white men in jail. And we do not know what the outcome will be, in a judicial sense. We know the result is in, that these men are dead, and we know who killed them. But the question of what will be done concretely beyond using these two guys as posters to represent the culture. The culture is much deeper and much wider than two men. Much deeper and much wider than two men.

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson, standing in front of Mother Emanuel church as thousands pay their last respects to South Carolina state senator and the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Today, the funeral for Reverend Pinckney. Thousands are lining up to attend.

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