Save The Dream March on the Capital
Affirmative Action Is A Majority Issue
That Benefits Everybody
Speech by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Monday, October 27, 1997
To God be the glory. I congratulate you, the people of faith and hope, who have come to insist on the highest moral and ethical standards of our nation, with an insistence on the American dream being fulfilled. It is a joy to look in to your faces, the great American Rainbow Coalition. Here you stand representing the breadth and depth and power of the American experience. Your dreaming, your will to dignity, your will to inclusion, your will to a one big tent America has transforming and healing power. That will, will not be denied.
Today, we gather at the state capitol a state which was founded as an official bilingual state, a new state of inclusion and sharing. Today we march for fairness, inclusion, public policy, humane priorities. When we march, we affirm our resolve to dignity. When we march, we exercise one of our great freedoms, the right to protest for the right. When we march, we motivate. We educate. We expand the public debate. We alter the environment. When we march, we inspire. We raise hope to new levels. When we march together in coalition, with determination, driven by the moral imperative, we almost always win. Marching is always in contrast to surrendering, cynicism, loss of confidence and doing nothing. Dr. King warned that we had to move beyond a paralysis of analysis, to direct action.
We march in a great tradition. When Moses marched across the Red Sea, the moral imperative could not be ignored. It altered the course of human history. The marchers changed public policy. When Joshua marched around the walls, steadfastly and with determination, seven days and seven nights, nobody could get in and nobody could get out. It was a boycott. The walls of division and oppression came tumbling down.
When Jesus marched with a rugged cross of redemption and reconciliation and selfless suffering, it had healing power. When Gandhi marched to the sea, it led to the freedom of a great, but beleaguered nation. When Dr. King marched in Washington projecting the dream, and marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma for the right to vote, with the willingness to die so that others might live, those marches generated hope and strength and a renewal of faith.
Today, we march on Sacramento honoring the tradition of the martyrs and the marchers who led the world to high plateaus of civility and freedom. In the face of a trail of abusive state's rights propositions committed against America's people, diminishing the gains for inclusion and equality, it is time to rise up in dignity and fight back! There is no moral imperative to cooperate with unjust, oppressive laws. Elected officials, students, people of conscience, must defy, challenge, resist, any law or set of laws, that diminishes equal opportunity and federal civil rights afforded by many years of struggle.
Thirty four years ago, I remember the march on Washington as if it were yesterday. As students, we gathered in Washington for a multiracial, multicultural coalition of the faithful and the hopeful. We stood there looking for a brighter future. We stood there dreaming. We stood full of anxiety bearing the scars of apartheid and segregation, experiencing the violence of exclusion and marginalization, and yet driven by a vibrant sense of hope. We marched on.
Dr. King called America's highest and best self a dream. The American dream is a dream of hope and new possibilities. then as now learning to live together under one big tent remains the moral imperative and the great opportunity of our times. for this dream, we challenged closeddoor policies. We faced dogs, jails, untimely deaths. I had already been to jail twice trying to use a library and other public facilities. Then, as today, there was a struggle at the crossroads, a struggle, a tug of war defining America and determining its destiny. There was a struggle by the dreamers versus the dream busters. There were the dream busters who were demagogues of racial and gender fears, division, hatred and violence. but, the dreamers of hope and faith and inclusion remained insistent.
Dreambusting governors standing at school house doors is not new. They, too, have a tradition. Today, there is a generation of dreambusters who did not march with Dr. King. they were not at Montgomery. They did not march in Washington. They were not bloodied at Selma. They did not support the poor people's campaign. These propagandists invoke Dr. King's dream of an America where one day all of God's children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin to justify an attack on civil rights laws. They suggest that Dr. King would support measures that would reduce opportunities of the historically excluded. They suggest he would not support a plan to repair and remedy past and present acts of exclusion. Dr. King had compassion on those who were left behind, or locked out, and a vision that realized that building bridges was the key to a future of shared security and greater prosperity. In Orwellian fashion, they rip King's text from its content and turn his truth into a lie.
What did Dr. King actually believe? He gloried in the progress made against segregation and racism in America, but he was no idle dreamer. He warned that America remained poisoned by racism, "which is as native to our soil as pine trees, sage brush, and buffalo grass". America must recognize "that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structures of our society."
In essence, Dr. King's dream was a nation that practiced equal protection under the law, and equal opportunity. He supported a Marshall plan for America. some plan to offset structural inequality. Some bridge to let more across who had been left behind or locked out. He said it didn't cost anything to grant public accommodations or the right to vote. but it would cost to offset years of denial and structural inequality. He knew that building bridges would be a sound investment and he supported a plan for repair and inclusion. His last great effort, the poor people's campaign, was a testimony to his commitment to offer a rope of hope for those who were down, an access bridge to those who have been locked out.
Today, 34 years after the death of the dreamer, Dr. King, a host of martyrs Medgar Evars, the four babies at the Birmingham church, Viola Liuzzo, Rev. James Reed, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, the violent death of Vincent Chin, the beloved Cesar Chavez who gave every measure of his body, his mind, his breath and his being to lift the lot of the common people we gather again asserting the dream, revisiting the chilly winds and viruses of fear and hostility let loose by the dreambusters.
It is shameful that 34 years after the dream of hope and inclusion was projected that Prop. 209 which makes it illegal to consider gender or race as factors in opportunity Proposition 187, which subjects Hispanic citizens to suspicion and marginalization, antibilingual schemes, encroachment on Indian sovereignty, guestworker and sweat shop labor schemes, unwired and structurally unsound schools and first class architecturally award winning jails. this trail of abuses and moral contradictions has been unleashed like scud missiles with the effect of bludgeoning the dreams of this generation.
These are divisive, painful propositions that leave us asking why. At a time of such abounding prosperity, why is there this virus of cynicism and division enticing our body politic? It leaves us asking, why California, a state that has held so much promise for so many for so long?
In the face of awesome odds, we will not surrender our spirits. We have never been neutralized by fear in the face of governors blocking doors of opportunity in the past, nor retarded by the cynicism that they projected. We have always gone forward by hope and healing. Dr. King projected the dream. We must preserve the dream. Our children must realize the dream. It is a reasonable expectation.
What is the dream? The invitation to America will give you a hint. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who yearn to breath free." Test scores and literacy tests were not used to exclude dreamers but, rather, a will to contribute, a yearning for freedom was the ticket price of admission.
The dream: a one big tent America with five basic tenets under the tent: 1) equal protection under the law; 2) equal opportunity; 3) equal access; 4) fair share; 5) an extended hand for the least of these who languish in the margins who are trying to make it to shore.
The dream that Dr. King projected was of new laws for security under one tent, shared public facilities, shared voting rights, shared economic opportunities, shared risks, shared responsibilities. Our mission in Washington was a public accommodations bill, a voting rights act. His children could not use the theme park at Stone Mountain, Georgia, as white children did because of state's rights laws and culture.
He dreamed one day that the walls of legal structure that separated races would be replaced by a bridge and that under one big tent we could be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. The dream is not to be color blind nor gender blind, but to be color and gender sensitive and caring and inclusive.
We choose vision over blindness. We do not need to pray for cataracts over our eyes for clarity. That is confusing, contradictory and unnecessary. The dream: e pluribus unum of the many we are one. The dream: liken unto the quilt, made up of many patches, many colors and textures and sizes, bound by a common thread. each patch has integrity. Each patch has made contributions. But only bound together can they make a quilt of beauty and art and security.
Today, that dream is under attack in California. The violence of exclusion and elimination has resounded with fierce determination and the resurrection of walls that divide.
This is a strange development at a time in American history. We are experiencing an unprecedented opportunity for hope, healing and inclusion. We are experiencing growth, expanded wealth, and prosperity. Our collective efforts made it all possible. When we remove walls, we create opportunities and development and growth. And then we are all winners. In the South, when the walls came down the cotton curtain was removed, the South could host the Olympics, professional athletic teams, international investment and growth. The Florida Marlins could not have been in the world series until the cotton curtain came down. The civil rights movement made the Florida Marlins and the new South growth possible.
In South Africa, when the walls came down the stage was set for unprecedented growth. In Berlin, when the wall came down a new world order was in the making. When women and people of color are excluded from opportunity and development, growth is limited.
What is driving the fear? For the wealthy, the ceiling has been removed, but for the poor, there is no floor. The middle class is experiencing downsizing, part-time workers, stagnant wages, subcontracting, more work, less security... a sinking feeling. The middle class is not sharing in the great boom of prosperity, growth and wealth. Anxiety leads to fear and then hatred and then violence. The violence of exclusion often leads to physical violence unless we chart a clearer and higher course.
Dr. King's dream is in danger of becoming a modern American nightmare. your governor has left a trail of abuses in his wake.
Three strikes: a new jail industrial complex, locking up our youth for sport. Excess jails and deficient schools. In Sacramento alone, there are 77 schools, but only four of them are wired for the computer. All are technically deficient. They stand in stark contrast to state of the art jails. First class jails and second class schools is a nightmare.
What is the impact of this latest scud missile, Prop. 209 which makes it illegal to consider women and people of color. Women are beginning to lose contracts. People of color access to schools, jobs, contracts. 400 African American and Latino students applied to medical school at UC San Diego, UC Davis all 400 were rejected. Eric Brooks, the sole African American student in UC Berkeley's freshman class, a holdover from last year. At UCLA, an 80% drop in Black, Hispanic and Native American enrollment at the law school. A radical resegregation of our schools and reduction of opportunity is not good for America.
I am convinced that if the battleground were Alabama or Mississippi or Arkansas in the South the national media and politicians from both parties would be jumping on the issue to establish their national reputation by demanding that these southern states not be allowed to re-segregate, that state's rights would not prevail. The federal government would not hesitate to move. In the South fighting Prop 209 or 187 would be a proving ground, proving ground, that they are for social justice.
But California has been protected from the same standards applied to southern states because it is big, because it is the financial source of many campaigns. This atmosphere of intimidation and double standards is real campaign finance corruption. In the face of the trail of attacks on civil rights and retreats from both side of the aisle, there has been silence and a conspicuous absence of dissent. It is as if we have one party with two names. Or two parties with one assumption. All eating from the same trough. The American people deserve clarity. They deserve choices. They should expect leadership that will champion the American dream.
The radical resegregation of these schools and reduction of opportunity for women and people of color is even more dangerous than 100 years ago when the court ruled "separate but equal" under Plessy v. Ferguson. The assumption 100 years ago was, inasmuch as there is a race problem, solve it through separation and the building of parallel institutions. Thus, Howard university and other universities for people of color. Under the apartheid scheme, at least there was an acknowledgment of a problem.
Prop. 209, driven by an assumption that inasmuch as there is no longer a race or a gender problem, therefore make it illegal to consider a remedy. In the face of blatant discrimination, such indifference to reality is a sin.
Affirmative action benefits everybody. It results in increased productivity and strengthens the economy. for instance, at the UC Davis medical school, 94% of the special admissions students graduated, compared with 98% of the students admitted through regular admissions. In addition, there was no difference in the groups in completed residency training in their residency performance or in obtaining board certification.
The American democracy does not guarantee equal results, it must guarantee equal opportunity. The evidence is that when there is equal opportunity, results are amazingly similar.
State's Rights v. Federal Civil Rights
Mayors, city county officials. These facts are the case for keeping the bridges and extending the hands of support. We urge you not to honor these Prop. 187/209 unjust decrees. You must resist allowing these state's rights initiatives to undermine federal civil rights. This is not just a civil rights question. This is a civil war question. no state has the right through popular sovereignty to undermine federal civil rights securities. Well, they say, the people of California voted for Propositions 187 and 209. based upon state's rights, slavery would have prevailed. But thank God the Union won. The American flag flies higher than a state flag.
Based upon state's rights, the children of Little Rock the Little Rock 9 would have been denied entrance by a dreambusting governor. Eisenhower said the American flag and the Union had to prevail. On this basis, Wallace in Alabama blocking school doors, would have blocked public accommodations. Johnson reminded him that the American flag flies higher. And now as Wilson blocks school doors, we the people are marching. The Department of Justice, Department of Education, President Clinton must remind California and Governor Wilson that, as a member of the Union, no proposition which undermines federal civil rights can prevail.
Title IX for women and Title VII are gender and race sensitive. Prop. 209 makes it illegal to consider either. There is a collision course between Prop. 209 and Title IX, and the American flag must fly higher.
There are those who say affirmative action is hurting whites. Let's look at that reasoning. The primary beneficiaries are the white family. The majority of beneficiaries under Title IX are white women who with education, as they join the work force, and get contracts, help stabilize the white family and expand the economy. Plus women of other hues. Plus people of color. Plus persons with disabilities.
Affirmative action is a majority issue. No ethnic group should have to bear the burden of this remedy and be seen in a pejorative way. When more people are educated, they add to expansion and growth. When there is growth, they are all winners. If we did not educate women and people of color, we would have two choices: slow down productivity, or import labor. With affirmative action, we have turned tax consumers into tax payers. 35% of our work force is white male. Expanding the education and job and contracts basis is morally right and key to our economic growth. Rational people, caring people, must rise up for dignity and fight back.
There is power in our marching feet. Today, Dr. King would say we face the fierce urgency of now. We cannot wait and we cannot go backwards now, for the time to coalesce and build an ark is as the flood waters rise. We will survive the flood. We can get better and not bitter. If we are determined and not distracted, we will save the dream, and sustain hope.
We march in the tradition of the prophets, the martyrs and the children who sacrificed to raise the level of stability and public ethics in the world community from South Carolina to South Africa, from Tiananmen Square to Gdansk, Poland.
Our march will set a climate for inclusion. The marching in the South allowed Kennedy and Johnson to emerge as leaders of lasting credibility. It made President's Carter and Clinton possible. how President Clinton handles this matter of a state's rights attack and radical reduction of opportunity, could very well define his presidency. The gender, race and class dialogue is taking place in California in school admissions, jobs and contracts.
In a greater measure America of the next century is being defined right here today in Sacramento.
Where do we go from here? A massive voter registration drive in every city, field, campus, hamlet and mountainside. We must vote for dignity with a passion.
Where do we go from here? We must set forth a process of signing more than 1/4 million signatures of registered voters. We are determined to go forward by hope and participation.
Where do we go from here? At a date to be determined in February, a Save the Dream Part III march in Los Angeles. Where do we go from here? A resistance at the city, campus and county levels to these unjust decrees. Where do we go from here? Calling upon our senators to conduct hearings on the impact of these decrees on school admissions, jobs and contracts, bank lending, housing, and health.
Where do we go from here? The mobilization of national leadership to stop the scud missile attacks on the dream. state by state. Where do we go from here? Urge our youth to not despair, and stop the selfdestructive behavior of consuming drugs and alcohol, engaging in violence and making babies that they cannot raise.
Where do we go from here? A determination to raise our moral and ethical expectations of ourselves and our nation. When I look at the despair and the inaction around the country, I'm clear that it is easier to tell Pharaoh to let my people go than to convince my people to let Pharaoh go. People are so bound by Pharaoh's antics of intimidation and so mesmerized by media distraction.
They have developed such a comfort level, yet this generation must sing with the Lord a new song of hope. The writer and the 137th Psalm described it best when he said they carried us away captive and we hung our harps on the trees. They actually surrendered. they hung their talents, their dreams, their religion, their convictions, their hopes, on the trees. They developed spiritual deficit disorder. they lost confidence in themselves and in their God.
That's why they ask how could they sing the Lord's song in a strange land? The fact is, you can't sing anywhere unless there's a restoration of confidence and hope and high expectations.
And so we march until mountains are made low and until valleys are exalted. Until crooked ways are made straight. Until the least of these have their right to the tree of life. We march for all of us to say with assurance that this land is our land. It was made for you and me. We will march until the song of hope resounds from every valley and mountainside. In many languages there will be a common message that says, yes we can!
I would say in Spanish, "Si se puede!"
Whatever language, the message is hope over fear. Inclusion over exclusion.
This land is our land. It was made for you and me.
"Esta tierra es nuestra tierra."
Thank you very much. God bless you.
|Published in In Motion Magazine November 17, 1997.
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