National Conference on Media Reform 07: Jesse Jackson

When do you see a farmer on a television show? Farmers ought to have something to say about ethanol. 400 cities are majority black or brown—and yet no black mayor has a spot on network television.

We’re losing lives, money, honor, and the president is looking for a shovel rather than a rope, digging a deeper hole. He’s a war addict, he needs methadone to be weaned fro this war.

(Football as racial equalizer) whites from Green Bay cheer a black quarterback, and blacks from Chicago cheer a white one. What makes them choose uniform color over skin color? But if blacks had to run 12 yards to prove something, and whites had to run seven because they inhereited five yards—the goal of equal opportunity, access, fairness is the road to peace.

MLK (Martin Luther King) Jr was hated by so many whites and shunned by so many blacks. He was controversial. He challenged white male supremacy as he fought for women’s rights, workers’ rights, racial justice, he disturbed the status quo. Segregators and segregated had to live with his challenges. He challenged the war and its priority shifting. He challenged privilege at the expense of rights. But when he challenged the power structure, he was sent to the penitentiary for traffic tickets. He was bricked in Chicago, stabbed in NYC. When we romanticize him, we take away the air from a struggle that remains today.

I Have a Dream was the alliterative poetic climax of that day, to lift our spirits. We could not use a public toilet, we could not buy an ice cream at Howard Johnson’s. His speech was about a broken promise.

On January 15, 1968, he put on jeans and a windbreaker and convened some allies (white, black, Jewish, southern, northern). We spent that morning brainstorming on how to end poverty. And then in the afternoon, brainstorming on how to end the war. What would he be doing today, consistent with that?

MLK: I thought seriously about quitting , after 13 years. I could become president of Morehouse College, I could write books. But Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas wouldn’t understand. I could fast to death. But he said we’re going to turn the minus into a plus, we’re going to Memphis and we’re going to fight war and poverty. So he leads us today to the challenge of choosing coalition over coexistence. He leads us after 40 years…

MLK: when all enemies speak well of you, how are you going to change?

Affirmative action—I had a conversation with a flight attendant, mostly it’s white women who benefit. Why can’t she learn that on television? Why couldn’t she have gotten the truth of Harold Ford’s Senate candidacy from the media?

The media has the capacity to take a bigger role in making America better. And that’s why consolidation is a bad idea. When GE owns NBC, a small part is bottom line but the big part is propaganda. That legacy of ownership leaves us weaker.

When the Gingrich forces came in, their first act was to eliminate the tax certificate (that encouraged minority media ownership). The first act of the new Congress should be more local ownership of local media.

No one ever asks me my opinion on the Iraq report. Most of those people have never been to Iraq. I’ve been to Iraq, to Cuba, to Beirut—ask me. All day, all night, it’s all white.

The Taliban hit us and we hit Iraq; it’s like a cross-eyed archer—you hit the wrong target. Kissinger’s analysis was wrong, mine was right—but he remains the authority (to the media)

When you can buy American-made medicine cheaper across the river in Canada than you can in Detroit, tell that story, because it’s not right. Wall Street cannot be off limits to analysis.

We need jobs, infrastructure, housing, affordable health care for every American. We need bold, not baby steps.

Katrina as a metaphor for abandoned urban America. Stop funding Iraq and reinvest in America.

Wall St: $16 billion in bonuses and a man in Harlem can’t afford to pay his rent. End redlining. Bring down these barriers; we didn’t know how good baseball could be until everyone could play. We went from 13 teams to 32; inclusion leads to growth. The same is true of capital. Democrats: you can’t be against the war and fund the war budget. Let’s choose investigation over appropriation.

Keep writing your story, tell your story, report your story. In the beginning was the word, the word spoke the world into existence. No word, no world. Through all the madness, this land is our land. They’ll say you’re out of step but keep on marching anyhow. I’d rather lose the right fight than win the wrong one. The networks know what’s going on, they know we’re going to win this battle. Light your match, challenge the darkness, fill up a room. You are the key to world peace, the American dream. God bless you and keep hope alive.