Video: SC native Jesse Jackson praises action on flag

Standing at the doors waiting for senators to emerge after their historic vote to remove the Confederate flag, I was surprised to see the Rev. Jesse Jackson among them.

I was also a little surprised that I was the only media type to call out, “Rev. Jackson,” which brought him over to speak with me. Maybe some of those young media folks don’t know who he is.

Of course, I was more interested in what the senators had to say, but they were all occupied at the moment and, after all, Jesse Jackson is, like me, a South Carolina native. I was curious how he felt about his state today — or at least the SC Senate.

So I share what he had to say…

He praised the governor, and he said what the Senate did was just what Robert E. Lee would have wanted it to. He also moved on to call for Medicaid expansion, and it made a little more sense for him to do so, under these triumphal circumstances, than for some of the speakers at the rally Saturday — not as jarring.

But watch it yourself…

45 thoughts on “Video: SC native Jesse Jackson praises action on flag

  1. Lynn Teague

    I was impressed that Rev. Jackson spent hours sitting in the Senate gallery just listening to the debate. Well known figures often swoop in and out without much attention to what is actually going on. Rev. Jackson listened, at length, attentively.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Over on Facebook, some friends were dismissive, calling Jesse “Sharpton-lite.”

      Which he is not. First, he is a South Carolinian, which gives him standing.

      Second, he’s a legit player in this nation’s civil rights movement. He stood on that balcony with Dr. King moments before his death.

      Third, I’ve just always liked him and his lyrical mode of speech. I didn’t want him to be president, but I’ve always liked him.

      He came to visit us once or twice during my time as EPE at the paper, but I’m sure he didn’t recognize me today.

      My favorite brush with Jackson was indirect. He was visiting Jackson, TN, during the 1984 presidential campaign, which was a BIG deal in that little town, where I was news editor of the local paper. I had maneuvered things so that my reporter, Cheryl Levenbrown (now with The New York Times), had an exclusive interview with the candidate before he left town. I remember standing out on the street behind the courthouse, where Jackson had just spoken, and the competing Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter coming up to me and asking if I knew where Jackson had gone?

      Knowing he was sitting in a room nearby talking with my reporter, I evaded: “Um, I last saw him over there somewhere.” Which was true, but not truthful.

      I’m ashamed today of the subterfuge, but still proud of the scoop I had arranged.

      Scoop, baby. SC-O-O-O-O-OP!

      You didn’t want to compete against me in those days.

        1. Doug Ross

          “It was that kind of unrelenting initiative and drive that took me to a point in my profession where I made more than enough money to make me an automatic target for layoff…”

          I thought your success up to the point of layoff was just luck? and the layoff was just bad luck?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Doug, if you are swiping at me, I never said it was all luck, but certainly luck plays into success. If Brad had been born or had a mobility impairment, would he have been able to do these things, for example.

            1. Doug Ross

              Not sure. Charles Krauthammer has done okay with his severe disability. Was he lucky to be paralyzed in a diving accident at an early age?

              Some people do things others cannot or will not do. It’s what separates people. It’s amazing how much luck people who work hard and strive for success have over the course of decades. Just one lucky event after another.

              1. Kathryn Fenner

                sure, disabled people function all the time, but Brad would have found it mighty hard to make his bones as a reporter in the situation he describes if he were as disabled as Stephen Hawking. Krauthammer is a pundit, which is something one can do while less mobile, not a reporter.

      1. Margaret Pridgen (Maggie)

        Don’t forget South Carolina birthed Jesse Jackson not just as as a person but as an activist. He made his bones in the Civil Rights movement when, as a college student home on break, he was arrested for trying to use the public library in Greenville to work on an assignment.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Thanks. It is good to have some context on people. It is hard to imagine having to fight for the right to study in a library.

          Things are far clearer in hindsight; and yet some people have the perseverance to effect positive change in the present. Society has a hard time seeing the value of their accomplishments – at first they seem adversarial; and then suddenly they seem so normal as to be forgettable. We shouldn’t see them as either.

  2. guest

    B.W., in a recent post you wrote of a ”consensus of unity.“ What is the nature of this consensus? A consensus about or to do what? Merely about taking down the flag? Is that all? Is there even a consensus about what the flag means? There doesn’t appear to be, not even among the small population on this blog. And what about beyond that? You say, push no agendas! But it seems to me that it’s really only by adding what you deride as “agendas” that we fill the symbolism with substantive meaning.

    I’m sorry not to be able to fully join with you in your giddy enthusiasm. All the current talk about reconciliation reminds me too much of the great coming together that was supposedly occurring in America in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. How long did that last? And where did it end up? Why, in the great political polarization that soon followed. Removing the flag may not produce greater polarization. But what will be the positive residual effects of its removal? I will be eagerly waiting to see all the blessings that allegedly are to flow from it. Frankly, though, unless, as Rev. Jackson says, we also put an end the “Confederate agenda,” there likely will be little to follow up this very small gesture.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “Frankly, though, unless, as Rev. Jackson says, we also put an end the “Confederate agenda,” there likely will be little to follow up this very small gesture.”

      What’s the “Confederate Agenda”?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I take it to mean the attitudes on policy that went along with the shift of white folks to the Republican Party, starting with the defection of Strom Thurmond after the Civil Rights Act.

        The mass movement that led to large-scale abandonment of, and even hostility toward, public education, and basic social programs. The refusal to take the federal windfall on Medicaid is a good example, and far more relevant than some of the things that Neal Jones went on about the other day.

        It’s about a worldview that divides the world into two groups: Hard-working white people who have earned everything they’ve ever received, and worthless, lazy, shiftless black people who live only to sponge off the first group.

        It’s the equating of anything the government does with taking from the first group to give to the undeserving second group.

        The position was summarized briefly in an email Vincent Sheheen received defending the flag:

        “It’s not about the Confederate flag. It’s about the entitlement given to minorities, and folks are getting tired of it.”

        It’s that little mind trick that emboldens people to say, “I’m not racist; I’m conservative.”

        Anyway, I’m guessing that’s what he means.

        1. Doug Ross

          So the conservative/libertarian view is just a cover for racism?

          Perhaps when you stop spouting that misguided view, we might also move a little bit forward in unifying people.

          There are racists. There are conservatives. The overlap is much smaller than you imagine. It’s too bad you have such biased views.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Doug, I’m not saying that and I’m not thinking that. There are plenty of libertarians who are not racists.

            But yeah, a lot of folks who in previous eras would have been Dixiecrats or something of that order ARE attracted to the libertarian position by the dynamics that I described…

        2. Bryan Caskey

          Huh. Well that’s a shame. I was kind of hoping that the “Confederate Agenda” was a few odd-ball guys plotting to march on Washington and turn the Federal flank with a surprising and bold crossing of the Potomac River, reminiscent of Jackson’s flanking maneuver at Chancellorsville. 🙂

          But apparently, it’s just a label that seems to include me because I’m (horror of horrors) against the expansion of Medicaid. Using incendiary labels like this simply stops the debate because now you’re just insulting me and accusing me of some sort of crypto-racism, when all I’m doing is thinking about a policy issue and coming up with a different opinion.

          If someone is going to impute nefarious motives to my position, then I’m not really sure there’s much point to having a debate. Simply impugning my integrity and attempting to guilt me into accepting the opposing position isn’t terribly impressive or effective (at least for me).

          But that’s par for the course, I guess. Every day, I hear my President saying similar things about how all opposition to him is in bad-faith and that it’s impossible for people who see the world differently than he does in good faith. Leadership starts at the top, and that’s the tone we’ve had for years.

          Again, it goes back to the paradigm I’ve set forth before: I think that liberal-minded people genuinely want what’s best, but I think they’re just honestly wrong, and in some cases naive about how the world works. Conversely, liberal-minded people usually think that I’m greedy, evil, racist, homophobic, and…now I guess “neo-Confederate”, rather than give me the benefit of the doubt.

          It’s just part of the larger sickness we have now over all our political debates.

          One of the things I like about litigation over politics is that in litigation you have to address the other side’s position on the merits, regardless of what you think of it. You can’t simply respond by sneering and saying the other lawyer is arguing in bad faith.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Bryan, I didn’t mean to insult you any more than I did Doug.

            People hold wrong-headed positions for all sorts of pure motives. 🙂

            Take a step back, ignore fact that you hold some of the same positions as these people, and offer me another explanation for why Southern whites whose parents and grandparents were Dixiecrats moved from the FDR universe to the “limited government” position after the Civil Rights Act.

            There are plenty of people I agree with on things who I wish weren’t on my side. Don’t you ever experience the same thing?

            1. Bryan Caskey

              No worries. I’m not insulted, mainly because I know I’m not a crypto-racist advancing a “Confederate Agenda” from my secret lair inside a dormant volcano. (Although having a lair inside a dormant volcano would be a really cool.)

              The insults that really cut are the ones that have a kernel of truth to them.

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          In connection to what I said above, here’s something from The Washington Post this morning pointing to the relationship between race and the more virulent kind of anti-government feeling. It’s in a story about those wackos in Texas who think Jade Helm will be a federal military takeover of Texas:

          Here in the soft, green farmlands east of Austin, some say the answer is simple: “The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,” said Terry Orr, who was Bastrop’s mayor from 2008 to 2014.

          Orr said he strongly disagrees with those views, and he supports Jade Helm. But he said a significant number of people in town distrust Obama because they think he is primarily concerned with the welfare of blacks and “illegal aliens.”

          “People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said…

          Which is related to what I said above — folks thinking that the government is all about taking from deserving white folks to give to undeserving black and brown folks.

    2. Barry

      So you want them to do nothing? You are proposing nothing.

      Take the flag down. If that leads to other things- great. If it doesn’t, the flag is still down.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Exactly. A slice of bread is better than none, and we haven’t a clue how to get the whole loaf yet.

        1. guest

          No, I do not delight in disapproval or disdain – and resent your characterization. (Maybe you should consider banning some of your own misguided postings).

          But I do have a certain degree of disdain for the grandiose claim being circulated here that removing the flag marks a transformational moment toward reconciliation, consensus and unity. Removing the flag is not a great triumph. It is a very, very small gesture that only came about because of those 9 deaths in Charleston. It’s a necessary but wholly insufficient act.

          The vast majority of South Carolinians are nowhere near as personally invested in this matter as you are. The great bulk of them don’t really care that much either way and just want it to go away – and figure the best way to do that is simply to drop the flag. So where does that leave transformation? Meanwhile, the rest of the country (outside the South anyway) looks at SC and says, “Huhn? All they do is take down that old flag and expect us to think they’ve done something really special? Ha! What a laugh!”
          No, this is not the great achievement you would have it be. (Maybe thinking so is what happens when one goes from the world of journalism to the world of advertising: everything takes on a promotional tinge and reality grows rather vague.) No, this action is just another small and very weak effort by a mule-headed state to drag itself reluctantly into the 20th century. The 21st will have to wait a while longer.

      2. guest

        No, I am not saying do nothing. But it seems to me that a certain kind of orthodoxy has taken root here that divides the outside world (i.e. those who are not BoBs – Buds of Brad) into “us” and “them,” with them being anyone who steps the least bit out of rhetorical line on this issue, as I have by questioning the pretentiousness of those who see this as a transformational moment.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          The only thing that unites the BoBs is that we have made our true identities known to Brad and on the blog, unless in the latter case, we have made the case to Brad that we cannot safely disclose to the public our identities without repercussion . We publish under our own names.
          This is Brad’s blog, and he does the heavy lifting to provide us a forum. All we give back is page views.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          …as I have by questioning the pretentiousness of those who see this as a transformational moment.”

          I’m kind of with you there.

          Is it a long time coming? Yes.
          Is is something we should do? No doubt.
          Is it a good thing? For sure.
          Will it have some good effect? Probably.
          Will it be “transformational”? Nah, bro.

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s the thing, M. Why can’t a person who thinks this is a transformational moment simply be wrong? Why does that person have to be called “pretentious?” Why can’t it just be about the idea, and not about the person? Why not make it easier, not harder, for us to hear each other?

          Disdain for the idea, sure. Disdain for the person is unnecessary, and counterproductive in dialogue.

          1. guest

            Ideas don’t float freely in space as pure substances. Like viruses, they require hosts: people. And those with access to public fora – in particular politicians and journalists (who now also include bloggers) – serve as especially potent vectors. Plus, it practically goes without saying that some ideas gain traction not because they are good but because of the persons or persons expounding them.

            But to return to the issue at hand: Is South Carolina today the same as the South Carolina of 1961? Of course not. Is it significantly different than the South Carolina prior to 17 June 2015 – a “new South Carolina,” as you put it in today’s op-ed? No, I seriously doubt that it is.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              I saw Potent Vectors open up for Alice In Chains at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in 1997. They rocked it.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Ha! “Confederate Agenda” would totally be a great name for an ole-timey sounding bluegrass band, where the guys all had long beards like ZZ Top.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              We differ, Mr./Ms. Guest.
              I most definitely believe this is a different place today than it was before the shooting, and certainly before the grace shown by the victims’ families, cemented by Doug Brannon, Governor Haley and the folks who stood with her. Paul Thurmond’s eloquence. It *IS* a great day in South Carolina. I feel it!
              Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.

    3. Michael Rodgers

      First, Mr. Guest, absolutely no agendas can be pushed now. The legislative session is over. The state budget is set (except for some vetoes which will be either overrode or not). By a Gov. Haley-led unity miracle, the Legislature decided and successfully managed to amend the sine die to talk about the Confederate flag that our state flies and its placement on a pole out front, just behind the Confederate Soldier Monument. The only things we can talk about now are the vetoes and the flag/pole.

      Second, Mr. Guest, taking down the flag is not a mere gesture made by paternalistic republicans to cover up their rampant racism while pushover democrats provide kumbaya cover and hope futilely for residual effects. (Uggh, so many asinine assumptions built in to your arguments; so many that I have to say uggh again: Uggh). Taking down the flag is extremely important: Cindi Ross Scoppe said with only slight hyperbole, if our Legislature takes down the Confederate flag and pole now with unity, that action “might be more important than anything it has done in living memory.”

      1. Margaret Pridgen (Maggie)

        I agree. This whole range of events has been significant, none more so than the words of Paul Thurmond. Does it take political courage in this state to say “Slavery was wrong, wrong, wrong”? And while we love and honor our ancestors, we are not proud of the cause and the economic system they fought to defend.

        To hear Jesse Jackson say “South Carolina started the Civil War, and now maybe it is ending it” reminded me of a quote I noted from Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, sequel to Wolf Hall. She referred to the War of the Roses, but it resonated with me 6 weeks ago, long before the Emanuel AME shooting. She said: “A generation on, lapses must be forgiven, reputations remade; otherwise England cannot go forward, she will keep spiraling backwards into the dirty past.”

        More needs to be done, Mr. Guest, but at least we now have hope of spiraling forward!

  3. Karen Pearson

    Taking down the flag is very important. It is a symbol, not just a flag. Taking it down sends out a loud, clear message. Part of that message is: we care what our black citizens think and feel. This state will no longer assume that white feelings are more important and more valid than black feelings. The default assumption is no longer white superiority/white privilege. Taking it down does not exalt any race or denigrate any heritage. No one is trampling the confederate flag; it is simply not a symbol shared in common. We are putting it in a museum where the past belongs. Anyone is welcome to honor the heritage it represents by flying it on his or her property. Then that person is claiming that heritage as he sees it; not forcing that heritage on all.

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