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Jesse Jackson: 'We're winning' battle for racial equality


Jesse Jackson: 'We're winning' battle for racial equality



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Reverend Jesse Jackson has devoted his life to civil rights activism in the US and has made various forays into diplomacy.

Euronews reporter Joanna Gill met up with him during his recent visit to the UK, where he gave a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and received an honorary degree

Building bridges

Civil rights leader, clergyman, journalist and “citizen of the world.” Just some of the titles attributed to Jesse Jackson.

The activist has also been known to dabble in foreign policy issues. He recently met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for more than an hour at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange has been living in the building since 2012, as he fights extradition to Sweden.

“I wanted to hear him out. I’d read many of his works,” explained Jackson.

“And there was a huge body of Americans and British citizens among others protesting the war in Iraq and somewhere along the way the exposure of the schemes involved is quite embarrassing,” he continued.

“But I can really only say that freedom of the press matters and it is right, and detention without trial is wrong. I hope that the matter can be worked out and resolved fairly soon.”

Migrants on both sides of Atlantic

Europe is currently facing a migrant crisis, with scores of people making dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean to escape conflict and poverty at home.

In the US, President Barack Obama has tried to introduce an amnesty for around five million undocumented migrants, but this has been roadblocked.

Jackson says the human rights of all migrants searching for a better life need to be “affirmed.”

“Europe and the US are the have nations, in part much of the have comes from the resources from the have-not nations. You have this huge gap – wealth gap, income gap, education gap and resource gap and so the have-nots and the desperate are coming to where the resources are,” he told euronews.

“So either we’re going to build a bridge and develop them or face the issue of containment and confrontation. I hope that we will be humane in the process.

“The immigration in America and the migration issue in Europe is fundamentally the same and it grows out of this gap. People are not leaving home in great numbers because they want to. They’re hungry and their human rights ought to be affirmed.”

Turning a page on history

Jackson is well known for his visits to Cuba.

In a sign of warming relations, the US recently reopened its embassy in Havana more than 54 years after it was closed.

John Kerry presided over the ceremony, becoming the first American Secretary of State to visit the country in 70 years.

Jackson told euronews that it was an event that made him “feel good.”

“There’s such a fascination with Cuba because 1959, face it, African-Americans, Latino-Americans couldn’t vote, had no basic human rights, almost all of Latin America was under occupation,” he commented.

“Africa, down to South Africa was under some form of occupation or colonialism and all of those nations found hope in Cuba’s survival.

“So we’ve come full circle now to affirm the America-Cuban relationship and it’s a good thing.”

Jackson added: “I hope that the multilateral deal with Iran will be successful and be confirmed and I hope that Venezuela will be next. We must choose peace over war. It’s right and it’s less expensive than war.”

Cuba: human rights in question

As a new chapter begins in US-Cuba relations, some question Havana’s commitment to human rights.

A Human Rights Watch report has said the “Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism.”

Jackson commented: “Some aren’t satisfied with the human rights situation in America. After all, we are five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

“We have our own human rights challenges and I’m sure that now we are communicating we can work on that together. We are in no position to impose a standard on Cuba that does not apply to ourselves.”

Hope and fear

Jackson said there is an “element of fear” about reconnecting with Cuba. He thinks that if President Obama had made the same move five years ago, he may not have been re-elected.

“Now people feel it’s time and it’s the thing to do,” said Jackson.

He said there is a similar situation with Iran relations.

“There’s a lot of fear of bringing Iran in but more fear of leaving Iran out. So you have political leaders and generals who are embracing the deal and some are rejecting it,” said Jackson.

“I think that he (Obama) will have to veto any opposition so to bring Iran back into a more formidable trade relationship. To bring Cuba back into a trade relationship. To next move to Venezuela, I say Venezuela because it’s in our hemisphere, we must have peace in that hemisphere.”

“Talking works”

Commenting on protest crackdowns in Venezuela and debate over the country’s human rights, Jackson said: “It is better to talk human rights out than try to isolate them away.

“There are human rights issues in China but we have trade relations and diplomatic relations. We have found over a period of time it’s better to talk them out than to try the schemes of isolation.

“The east-west wall didn’t work in Germany. Isolating Cuba didn’t work. Not going to the Olympic Games in Russia didn’t work. Talking works.”

Reconciling inequality

A series of police killings of unarmed black men and teens across the US have sparked a newly-energised civil-rights movement under the banned “Black Lives Matter.”

Jackson has said there are not only issues relating to race, but also class

“1865, after 246 years of slavery, Africans were freed. That was the forward thrust of freedom and great values. Then there was a reaction and for about 70 years 4,200 African-Americans were lynched as a reaction to the progress,” Jackson told euronews.

“We’ve seen 50 years of problems as a reaction to the progress. This comes in the form of these killings and jailings. At the end of the day we’re winning. We’ve gone from being denied the right to vote to having an African-American president. We’ve gone from low expectations to unlimited expectations,” he continued.

“Workers rights, women’s rights, children’s rights. All these rights are under attack but there’s a tug of war for the soul of America and the soul of Europe.

“The people who want to fight for justice cannot be short distance runners, you must not give up, you must hold onto that rope for hope. In a contest between hope and fear, hope and courage must prevail.”

US presidential poll: Clinton puts up ‘formidable’ campaign

With a presidential election looming in America, Jackson said that issues around wealth will be on voters’ minds.

“The wealth is going upward, poverty is getting broader and the middle class is sinking. That’s why on the one hand you’re going to have a Donald Trump who tapped into some fears and you can have a Bernie Sanders who is tapping into hope,” said Jackson.

“Both are dealing with people who are feeling locked out of the big tent. We cannot rest until there is a commitment to a one big tent America where all are in and none are out.”

Asked if he would push for Sanders’ nomination, Jackson added:“No it’s premature to make that judgement. Hillary (Clinton) is going to put up a formidable campaign. Right now she is leading all of the polls. She has paid her dues. She has all the requisite qualifications to become the next president and so far she’s winning.”


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