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Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

Affirmative Action, Wall Street and the IMF

San Diego, California

This interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson was conducted when Rev. Jackson was in San Diego building support for the Save the Dream March/California. The march was held in Los Angeles, February 23, 1998. Interview by Nic Paget-Clarke.

Rosa Parks and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Photo by Butch Wing.
Rosa Parks and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Photo by Butch Wing.
In Motion Magazine: What is the significance of affirmative action?

Rev. Jackson: Affirmative action is a recognition that there is a history of negative action, restraint of trade, restraint of opportunities based upon gender, and based upon race. Therefore it is a conservative remedy. Only when there is evidence of patterns of gender or race bias must there be a plan of goals, targets, and time-tables for inclusion. It is a conservative remedy and when allowed to work it has opened up doors. By inclusion it has expanded our economy. We now have more women, more people of color, who are consumers, producers, part of an educated work-force, lawyers, doctors, socially-useful public servants.

In Motion Magazine: You've spoken about affirmative action being a majority issue. Could you explain that?

Rev. Jackson: Affirmative action has been used as race bait, for purpose of division. It has been seen as un-deserving blacks taking something away from meritorious whites. The reality is it costs more to lock blacks, and browns and women out than to let them in. It is seen as minority versus majority. But really it is a majority issue designed to enhance the minority of white males. Thirty-five percent of our work-force is white male. Women and people of color are not being trained and are not high-volume consumers. We have to slow our economy down or import labor. When you add the number one beneficiary, white women, (of affirmative action), plus women of other hues (Title 9), plus people of color (Title 7), plus the physically disabled -- this is a majority not a minority issue. It should never be used to play once race-group off against another.

In Motion Magazine: The campaign that you recently kicked off on Wall Street - how does that fit in?

Rev. Jackson: Wall Street, the brokerage community, by walling itself off from the growing women's market and by being detached from the emerging black and brown markets is missing the opportunity of economic growth.

They are about to take a bath on a belly-up in south Korea, and they have done so in other third world countries where the speculators rushed in and made some money off the top and milked it until it finally blew up. But in reality, the emerging black and brown markets of America are like third world markets. They have under-utilized talent, un-developed talent, a $600 billion-a-year consumer market. This market is accessible. It's secure. It occupies choice land in urban America. What we are saying to Wall Street is 'if you open up the investment opportunities the economy will grow horizontally just as it has grown vertically. Just beneath your nose is a market, identifiable, more secure, and closer than any third world market.'

In Motion Magazine: How did they respond?

Rev. Jackson: Tremendous response because we were talking about how to expand the market place using inclusion as the key to economic growth and all of them know that diversity is a net asset because their market place is diverse. You can't have basically all men selling sensitive wares to women. They miss too many nuances in the market place. You can't have whites who are afraid to relate to, or are culturally detached from blacks and browns, relate to them for economic development. These are vast markets who represent potential for growth.

In Motion Magazine: As the President's Special Envoy to Africa, what are you learning on your trips to Africa? In particular, how does Africa relate to the global economy?

Rev. Jackson: In the African countries we must put forth high ethical standards, free democratic institutions, transparent budgets, and enforce conflict of interest laws as keys to African development. Democracy and human rights lead to stability. The open, free, fair, non-violent democracies - those governments tend to be stable. In those instances you have a more investment-attractive and investment-worthy economy, and then you have economic growth. We will continue to espouse these values in development - human rights, reconciliation, democratic values - as keys to stability and economic growth.

There are those who in a rather contemptuous way say 'Well, Africa isn't ready for democracy yet. You shouldn't impose democracy on them.' Democracy is not an imposition, it's a series of freedoms: freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to protest for the right without intimidation, checks and balances, separation of powers, independent judiciary. The majority of Africans want those freedoms. Now, the dictators don't want them. The despots don't. But the people do. We must be on the side of the legitimate interests of the people. The people have a real need for human rights and democratic institutions.

In Motion Magazine: What's your opinion on the IMF (International Monetary Fund) bail-outs, not so much the bail-outs but what the IMF is saying needs to be done in countries in Asia and other parts of the world.

Rev. Jackson: To be sure, IMF must be flexible and not become a millstone around the neck of the people. It must be flexible enough to know when debt forgiveness is in order, when the country is capable of paying back some debt that grew out of some crisis. They've got a three billion dollar debt in Liberia. They've been at war for seven years and haven't collected taxes in four or five years. They are not capable of paying down a debt. They cannot grow unless there's some plan for debt forgiveness.

In Motion Magazine: You work in the United States, you go to Africa, you go to south Korea, and many other countries in the world. Can you say what the common theme is in you work.

Rev. Jackson: The common theme is the quest for human rights, shared economic participation and peace. People everywhere know the devastation of war and violence. People also know oppression and they want an alternative to oppression. People know the oppression of various forms of royal lineages that lock some people in eternally and lock others out for ever. This quest for democratic values and democratic institutions, human rights and peace, reconciliation, and transparency of the handling of moneys -- are common themes everywhere.

Published in In Motion Magazine March 8, 1998.