The Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Metro to discuss the condition of post-election race relations and political activism in President Trump’s new political climate. Jackson arrived in New York to prepare for a summit on the 20th anniversary of his founding of the The Wall Street Project and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, to be held at the Grand Hyatt New York Feb. 15-17.
Here are excerpts from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed.
Have the objectives of the Wall Street Project and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition changed with the election of President Trump?
For so long we were not even considered in the arrangement. Black people should be able to prosper. We grow with the economy — but we need to have access to capital. There is not a talent crisis, there’s been an opportunity crisis and a cultural crisis. We need to bring those cultural barriers down.
Did the election widen race divisions?
The last election was not about voter fraud; it was about voter suppression. They [the Department of Justice] found in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan evidence of voter suppression. [Trump's] claim of 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes — that’s not accurate. That’s alternative truth. It's a double motive. He uses the language of fraud, but in fact he may be laying the groundwork to be getting the governors in this search to start making even more suppressive tactics for those who have been locked out. What we really should do is fight for an amendment to the Constitution to federally protect the right to vote. We have state's right to vote, each with their own ideal. We should have one federal standard.
What needs to be done to repair racial divisions?
There is a lot of fear out there. There is a lot of Mexican youth that fear their parents will be deported. They must relieved of those fears. Women who feel their rights are being violated, they must be relieved of those fears. The attempt to say Barack Obama wasn’t born here, that deserves an apology. So that becomes the burden of the President Trump. And on the other hand, we can’t wait for that to happen.
Last Saturday’s historic massive march shows people turned fear into hope, and impetus into power. At end of the day, while Trump is the captain of the ship, the winds of change will determine which way the ship goes. We represent those winds of change.
How will the rapid repeal of the Affordable Health Care act affect Americans?
Thirty-million people never had healthcare before. The irony is that most beneficiaries of affordable health care are Trump supporters. It was labeled Obamacare for pejorative purposes. They don’t want Obamacare, but they want affordable healthcare. They still want coverage for pre-existing conditions, they want to insure their children until they’re 26, they want mammograms and pap smears. They want an omelet but they don’t want the eggs. They might end up changing it from Obamacare to Trumpcare, but people are not going back on more access to more healthcare.
Do you trust Trump’s cabinet picks to do right by minorities and blacks?
These are people put in positions who are ideologically opposed to the mission of their position.
What do you think the construction of the border wall will say about American culture and race relations to the rest of the world?
We celebrated tearing down the wall in Berlin. Building a separating wall between us and our neighbors, it’s a hostile act. It’s a threat to our Central and South American neighbors. We do more trade with Mexico on a given day than we do with Japan and China.
What is your counsel to the individual who feels afraid and is not really sure how to deal with Trump's pronouncements?
Don’t be paralyzed by your fear. Deep water does not drown you. You drown when you stop kicking. In the meantime, make these state-by-state fights.