Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 23:58:13 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List &$60;ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu&$62;
From: SGadlin <email@example.com>
Subject: Jesse Jackson: AFTER THE MILLION MAN MARCH
After the Million Man March
By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, President and Founder National Rainbow Coalition, 22 October 1995
We must not let the message of the Million Man March be mangled by the discordant commentary that has surrounded it. Hundreds of thousands of African American men gathered together in an historic witness that confounded cynics. Their spirit was purposeful, not hostile. They found joy in unity, not division. Their pledge for personal atonement and reaffirmation was yoked to a commitment to political action. In one shimmering day in the nation's capital, African American men held the nation's attention as they asserted the promise of a return to traditional morality.
Conservatives were surprised that the moral tone and the commitment to personal responsibility sounded much like thier own teaching. But the march only revealed in public what is taught every week in our churches and temples across the land. The compelling desire for spiritual renewal and personal recommitment brought many men, young and old, to this gathering, and infused it with its sense of purposefulness.
A large portion of the gathering was made up of the invisible silent majority of the black community--stock brokers and bus drivers, private businessmen and public bureaucrats, the wealthy and the working poor. Many came form the middle class that developed since doors of opportunity were opened by the Civil Rights Movement. They brought their sons and their fathers. These men work every day and go to church on Sunday. They tend their homes and build their families. They are invisible to a media that portrays African Americans as less intelligent, less hard working, less patriotic and more violent than other poeple. They came to affirm themselves, and also to stand up for those who have been left behind.
The pledge for personal atonement, so central to the gathering, was married to a commitment to politcal action. There is no contridiction here. As a minority, against terrible odds, African Americans have always known that political action grows out of personal responsibility, that pain must be turned to power. No matter how bad the odds, we have power, the power to choose, the power to stand up. When we do stand up, the world has to adjust.
The assault of the new conservatives--of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Clarence Thomas and the rest of their pack--helped focus the march. African Americans read the message of the Gingrich-Dole agenda clearly. The deepest cuts in spending come not from programs benefiting the wealthy, the corporations, those who pay for their party.
The cuts are targeted on the weak--poor mothers and children, the disabled, the elderly, the working poor. The cuts are targeted on the cities--on public housing, public health, public transportation, public water. To win support for this injustice, the poor and the urban are given a Black face, dismissed as hopeless genetically and culturally, and set up for the hit. The Gingrich-Dole strategy doesn't seem new or clever to African Americans; it seems but a tired sequel to the divisive politics of the old South.
So the Million Man March called for a political recommitment. Gingrich and his crowd won the Congress by a cumulative total of 19,000 votes in 1994. Eight million eligible African Americans are not registred to vote. There was no conservative tidal wave; they won not because the wave was high, but because our walls were low.
Many of those in the march once were cynical about nonviolent demonstrations. Many were cynical about voting. But now, a sleeping giant has been awakened and is beginning to move.
The policy agenda of the marchers is that of the moral center. They seek not welfare, but work. Not a handout, but a fair shake. their agenda puts meaning into conservative slogans.
Want to strengthen "family values?" Raise the minimum wage and extend the earned income tax credit.
Want to "fix the health care mess?" Provide universal health care to all Americans.
Want to "end welfare as we know it?" Guarantee a job for every family.
Want to "say no" to drugs and violence? Invest in children on the front side--prenatal care, Head Start, education--and save the money now wasted on imprisoning them on the back side.
Want a "new conversation" about race? Enforce the civil rights laws and stop rewarding those who play race-bait politics.
Such an agenda is in the direct interest of working poeple across lines of race. That is the potential of the march. A rising tide that lifts the boats stuck on the bottom will lift all boats. It is time for this country to change its course. The proud men who gathered on the mall may provide the historic turning point.