PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, transcript 3/5/2017
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: March 5, 2017
Guest: Michael Lomax, Stanley Nelson, Matt Welch, Joe Madison, Luis Gutierrez, Jesse Jackson
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Education is the civil
rights issue of our time. I am calling upon members of both parties to
pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth,
including millions of African-American and Latino children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, and welcome to POLITICS NATION.
President Trump has consistently presented himself as a friend to the
African-American community. And earlier this week, he met with the heads
of many historically black colleges and university before signing an
executive order making them a White House priority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Historically, black colleges and universities are incredibly
important institutions woven into the fabric of our history, just about
like no other. HBCUs have been really pillars of the African-American
community for more than 150 years. Amazing job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now social media was already preoccupied with this photo of
White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway with her feet on the Oval Office couch
during the HBCU meeting.
But for me and many others, the bigger story came in a written statement by
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, when she released this hours after the
Monday listening session with those same educators, calling HBCUs
“pioneers” when it comes to school choice.
Critics were quick to point out that HBCUs were a direct response to
segregation and by no means a choice. Is this yet another instance of
conservatives exploiting black history for political cover?
Joining me now is Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro
College Fund, who was at the White House for the signing, and Stanley
Nelson, award-winning filmmaker whose latest work is “Tell Them We Are
Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and University.”
Let me go to you first, Dr. Lomax. You were in the meeting with the
president when he signed the proclamation. There have been some that have
raised issues with it. Some of the students. I don`t know how widespread
it is. But it really wasn`t a meeting. It was more of a photo op and the
reading of a proclamation, isn`t that right?
MICHAEL LOMAX, PRESIDENT, UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND: Yes, that was really
the executive order being signed. And all of the meetings, Reverend
Sharpton, really had occurred prior to that. The United Negro Fund, the
Thurgood Marshall Fund, we`ve been meeting with White House staff, people
from the domestic policy team, really giving them our advice and counsel on
what needed to go into the executive order.
You know, every president since Jimmy Carter has issued an executive order
creating a White House initiative. But I would characterize the White
House initiative in the past as being a toothless tiger. It had a roar,
but it didn`t have a bite.
SHARPTON: Does this one have a bite? What makes this –
LOMAX: Well, so, so, this one, we said we`ve got to put some teeth into
this White House initiative. We want it to be in the White House. We
don`t want it to be lost in the bowels of the department of education. It
is going to be in the White House.
We want it to have an executive director who is able to designate
departments of the federal government that will be asked to develop plans.
The plans must be developed within 90 days of that designation. There must
be annual reports.
We also did want some percentages put in there. We wanted to see grants
going up to five percent and contracts up to 10 percent. That wasn`t put
in it. So, the question is –
SHARPTON: So, we`ve got – in the White House, we`ve got a percentage, but
we don`t have the grants, we don`t have a dollar figure, so we may have
had, rather than having some teeth, some dentures that could come out if
there`s no money here.
LOMAX: Well, the money side of this will be a part – we`ll see about the
money in the president`s budget. Because that`s where –
SHARPTON: By and by when the morning comes, maybe we`ll see, maybe we
LOMAX: Well –
SHARPTON: Let me ask this question of Stanley Nelson and then I`ll come
back to you, Dr. Lomax.
SHARPTON: I think that Americans need to understand the importance of
historical – historic black colleges and universities. And you`ve done a
documentary. I want to show a little part of it, because I think a lot of
people who didn`t understand the history, particularly when you had this
distortion from the education secretary about pro-choice, the history is
STANLEY NELSON, AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER: Yes. I think that it`s really
important that we understand the history, that we understand the
traditional role that black colleges and universities have served in our
There seems to be kind of a disconnect a lot of times with the White House
from history, and I think it`s really important that we understand the
SHARPTON: Stanley, here`s a short clip from your new documentary, “Tell
Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historical Black Colleges and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite the violence and intimidation, the shortage of
teachers and resources, the black colleges in the south survived, and they
began to produce their first graduates.
Many of whom were formerly enslaved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So, Dr. Lomax, no one has done better work than United Negro
College Fund in trying to fund these colleges and trying to keep them
going, and they are absolutely part of the fabric of black America and
But again, there are those that are saying that Mr. Trump, the president,
got away with a photo-op, there`s no real dollar commitment. Some people
are calling some of the college president`s sellouts. And it`s even worse
to sell out and you didn`t get anything.
LOMAX: Well, I think it`s too soon to tell whether we achieved a goal or
whether the goal is going to be elusive. Certainly we got the nation`s
attention about the importance of historically black colleges, the
importance of issuing an executive order, the importance that these
Now we`re going to find out, are they going to put their money where their
mouth is? Are there going to be teeth? Is there going to be enforcement
capability with respect to the executive order when it sets goals and
demands equitable treatment of HBCUs, which is the language of the
executive order in terms of federal funding.
So, this president has to submit a budget. Is he going to put $1 billion
in title three? Is he going to make – is he going to extend the $85
million a year in additional funds that President Obama put into that? Is
he going to make year-round Pell Grants available to all students? Is he
going to clean up the loan programs? Is he going – if he has a trillion-
dollar public works program, can some of that money be spent on HBCU
SHARPTON: That`s the kinds of things that we really need to hold their
feet to the fire and press for.
You know, Stanley, I don`t know that there is a real understanding with
many Americans of how important historically black colleges and
universities are. I know even me personally, who didn`t go – my daughter,
my youngest daughter, Ashley, went to Hampton, and I received an honorary
degree from Bethune-Cookman College. In fact, it was the first time my
father went with me. He had left when I was a kid one day when I graduated
high school from Virginia Union University.
So, all of us have these personal stories.
SHARPTON: But it was because these colleges were forced – were not
forced, they were founded because we were forced out of the mainstream of
education, so there`s no black family this didn`t touch. That affects even
now because I`m only a generation away from my mother not being able to go
to school where she was born and raised.
NELSON: Right. I think it`s really important that we understand that
historically black colleges were probably the biggest engine of black
people getting into the middle class that we`ve ever had in this country,
that, you know, from 1865, when the civil war ended, to 1965, we`re talking
about 100 years, basically, African-Americans could not go to schools other
than black colleges.
So, 90 percent of black people who went to college went to historically
black colleges and universities. My father and mother both went to
historically black colleges and afforded me, you know, and my siblings, the
life that I have and then my kids the life that they have, all coming out
of historically black colleges and universities.
And I think it`s really important that we understand that history and
understand that this was not a choice. There was no place else you could
go. And historically black colleges were formed mainly by African-
Americans to fill that need, because this was the only place that we could
go, and we believed in education.
NELSON: We believed education was the way out.
SHARPTON: Dr. Lomax, do you get a sense from your conversations with the
Trump administration that they understand the significance that Stanley
Nelson just brought and that you`ve given your life to in terms of the
importance of these institutions, even going forward? Because when you see
the tweet by the Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, it`s almost like they
really don`t even understand the history, aside from the insult saying it
was school choice, they don`t even understand the history, and that there
wasn`t a real meeting or exchange with the president who does know some
I mean, I`ve known the president for the last 30 years. We`ve fought,
argued, and even agreed on some things when he supported some democratic
mayoral candidates, but I don`t know that he and them understand the depths
of what historical black colleges and university really mean to this
country as they weigh the budget and the things that you raise.
LOMAX: Well, I think they`ve learned some talking points. The question is
have they really absorbed the history behind these institutions? And you
know, that`s yet to be seen.
I mean, one of the things that did happen after Secretary DeVos made her
comments is a number of the institutions said, we want you to come to our
institutions, we want you to meet our students, we want you to learn our
history, we want you to walk across our campuses and experience what it`s
like to be at an HBCU.
And you know, what I would say to black college students at historically
black colleges around the country is we`ve got to educate this
administration, and we can`t sit on the sidelines. We can`t marginalize
ourselves. We can`t refuse to be engaged in this discussion and to make
the case for what is important to be invested in our institutions.
So, I welcome the chance to do that and to give a history lesson or
multiple history lessons to the secretary of education.
SHARPTON: Stanley, the one thing that I think you wanted to do with the
documentary as part of really understanding for this country, of the
significance, the importance in the part of American history and the
bedrock of America in education of what these institutions represent.
Do you think coming out of this meeting, this can be something that leads
to that? Is this just the president use some black faces for a photo op?
Thank you, check that box, bye?
NELSON: Frankly, I`m not sure. But one of the things that I think that`s
really interesting is that in history, throughout history, black colleges
have been led by the students. And so many times in the civil rights
movements, other places, the students were pulling the administrations of
black colleges forward.
So, I`m not sure that I think it`s such a bad thing. You know when
students stand up, I`m always kind of feeling good, you know, because –
SHARPTON: I feel bad when they don`t.
NELSON: Yes. There`s never been a change, there`s never been a revolution
by old people in the history of the world. So, when young people stand up,
I think it`s a good thing.
SHARPTON: Yep. Thank you for that, Michael Lomax and Stanley Nelson.
Coming up, once again, President Trump goes on the attack, and once again
makes allegations without offering any proof to back them up. Is this the
new normal? We`ll be right back. This is POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Welcome back. For a while, after his mild address to congress
Tuesday night, I began to wonder if Donald Trump is maybe turning a corner
into normalizing his presidency, but then the leader of the free world was
at it again.
Yesterday, Trump released a flurry of tweets shortly after dawn, accusing
former President Obama of spying on him. One of Trump`s tweets read, “How
low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred
election process? This is Nixon/Watergate bad,” or in parentheses, “or
Obama`s spokesperson immediately responded with the statement, “Neither
President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on
any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
So, once again, Trump makes strong allegations without offering any
evidence or details. Is this the new normal for this White House and for
Joining me now is Joe Madison, radio talk show host on Sirius XM, and Matt
Welch, editor at large of libertarian magazine “Reason.”
Let me go to you first, Joe. You know, you and I and others from the
beginning have raised questions about Trump. You co-hosted the civil
rights market we spearheaded the National Action Network, we raised real
questions the week he`s coming in, there`s been protests. And then it
looked like on Tuesday night to most of the pundits and the talking heads
and the editorial writers he changed his tone. Maybe he`s turning a
And even I, who`s seen him bob and weave for decades, said maybe he is
growing into the presidency. And then this, Joe. I mean, he just can`t
JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, let`s deal with tone, and then
let`s be honest and deal with substance.
SHARPTON: Well, the policy didn`t change.
MADISON: That`s exactly right. And one of the things I suggested to my
audience was here`s what you do. Print out the speech and read the text.
Any professor of political science, that`s one of the things you encourage
your students to do, so that you don`t get caught up in the style.
Number two, let`s understand something – him referring to Watergate. The
fact that after Watergate it was codified that presidents cannot call for a
wiretap, so they didn`t even understand that history.
And then number three. Let us keep in mind, where Donald Trump is getting
this is from the same talk show personalities that started this stuff that
President Obama was not a citizen. So, this is just a continuation –
SHARPTON: The whole birther movement.
SHARPTON: But Matt, the question of – there`s no question about all of us
say the policy didn`t change, if you listened to the content of the speech
or read it. The volume and the delivery changed, but the content clearly
was the same. He didn`t back up. In fact, he dug in in some areas.
But the fact that many people wanted at least the tone and the imprimatur
of the president as a responsible, thoughtful person. That was what I
think a lot of people looking for. And then you see these kinds of tweets
yesterday, saying, no, wait a minute, he hasn`t grown in tone or hasn`t
become more thoughtful, look at this.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR IN LARGE, “REASON” MAGAZINE: I think it says more about
the media, the pundits, even you, and the sense of dislocation that the
Trump candidacy and the Trump presidency has given to the nation`s
political class, this expression of relief. It was temporary, because
obviously, it wasn`t going to last.
But on Tuesday night, everyone`s like, my God, finally, it happened. All
these Trump critics, people who have been digging on him from left and
right were so relieved because he ran as an opponent to their world, not
just the world of politics and ideology, the world of manners, of morays,
of this is how the political class talks acceptably about stuff. He has
talked unacceptably about stuff from the beginning.
So, for one speech – I was watching this speech and I was hearing not that
those tonal elements, I was hearing him make sort of heavy breathing
accusations about illegal immigrant criminality. There`s a bunch of things
that he said in there that were flatly untrue, and then I go on Twitter and
see this reaction from –
SHARPTON: Well, the civil rights is untrue.
WELCH: Everyone talking about this, but this was an expression of relief
from a political class that wants their old world back. They`re not going
to get it, ever.
SHARPTON: But I don`t even – I disagree with that. I don`t think that
it`s about, Joe, wanting the old world back in terms of our politics or our
policies. I think just the fact that we all relate to young people, have
children, want to see a president that operates with manners that Matt
talks about. That`s not trying to have your world back, that`s trying to
have some level of stability in the world.
MADISON: And not to frighten young people. I have a grandson who has a
name from his father, who by the way, is Kenyan. And you know, he`s
scared. You know, 11, 12-year-olds, younger children, they`re listening.
They`re frightened. You know, this is what most people – I don`t care if
it`s the barber shop, beauty shop, or the political class, almost everyone,
including republicans, are saying the same thing, that these folks are
really – they simply don`t know what they`re doing.
But let me say something real quick, Reverend Sharpton. I think – and you
know Donald Trump, as you`ve pointed out – I think that he is one of the
slickest presidents we`ve ever had, because Jeff Sessions was the real
topic, the real headline this week. And what Donald Trump is very capable
of doing is switching the narrative from Sessions to –
SHARPTON: Oh, no doubt about it.
MADISON: – this discussion, and that I think was planned by him in the wee
hours of the morning.
SHARPTON: No, well, I think the one thing that I keep telling people – I
do not think Donald Trump is in any way not one of the smarter in terms of
savvy, in terms of how to deal with media and all, and he`s a tough guy.
Everybody`s saying, let`s have meetings with him. Don`t think he`s agreed
afraid to disagree.
But what I think, Matt, that aside from the outrageous thing of raising
something like President Obama ordered my phones tapped without giving
evidence, without giving evidence, as outrageous as that is, and as much as
I may disagree with his policies and continue to protest and march and all
of that, I think that we all, conservative or republican – I`ve talked to
republicans on the hill that are very concerned about the tone and the
style of the presidency.
I talk to people as I travel around the country. Young people are actually
frightened about their future because they feel he`s on the edge here.
This has nothing to do with content. We all agree the content – the
election we lost, we understand that. We`ve lost elections before. But
this kind of tone bordering on being out of control is scary for a lot of
WELCH: Go look at the statement that Senator Ben Sasse, republican from
Kansas – Kansas? I think so – released yesterday. He talked about how
we need to, because of these tweets, we need to get down to the bottom of
this accusation and have some –
WELCH: – and have some disclosures that come out of this, because right
now we are on – and I`m going to mangle this slightly – but a
civilizational, like a threatening sense of –
SHARPTON: Like a crisis.
WELCH: Of dislocation.
SHARPTON: Right, right.
WELCH: This is a conservative republican saying that. There is a feeling
out there that he`s just rolling dice here in a reckless type of sense.
SHARPTON: And, Joe, I think that even those of us that are in the anti-
Trump in terms of policy, those of us leading the protests and all that,
even we`ve tried to have a level of trying to communicate in a sane and
responsible way as we express our outrage.
It seems like there is no rules to where he would go in terms of
allegations, statements, even the use of his language.
MADISON: And that`s why it`s very un-American and why you have most
Americans that are either on the right or left that are very concerned, and
quite honestly, outraged.
And you know, the key word now is resist. This is not difficult to get to
the bottom of. Look, the Obama administration has made it clear, not only
was this – would have been a violation after what happened in Watergate,
but former President Obama`s record is very clear. They would not allow a
single staff member to even suggest that this type of thing be done –
MADISON: And that`s on the record.
SHARPTON: Well, I don`t even think that they have to go as far as
defending it. I would say there`s no evidence there. You can`t argue
against something –
SHARPTON: – that somebody`s standing on a corner in Manhattan would just
scream, and you hate to think that kind of person or that style of person
is sitting in the Oval Office.
Thank you, Joe Madison. Thank you, Matt Welch.
MADISON: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, some call this a case of environmental racism. Our
“Gotcha” moment when we comeback.
SHARPTON: Buried in the craziness that was this weekend`s presidential
politics was this. The Trump White House proposed budget for the next
fiscal year guts the environmental protection agency in both funding and
This is no shock, considering the agency`s new head, Scott Pruitt, and his
known opposition to environmental regulation. And we all know his new
boss`s views on the environment.
So, with this new team in the White House, it is not surprising that EPA
carbon reduction programs would be on the chopping block. Tragic as it is.
But there`s much more.
Also slated for cuts are public health initiatives that benefit low-income
and minority communities, including water improvement on Alaskan native
lands, grants for native American tribes to fight pollution, support for
minority-owned small businesses, funding for environmental justice
education, and grants to states that deal with lead cleanup, the same lead
that has been harming the people of Flint, Michigan.
So, to keep it real, the burden of these cuts will fall hardest on the
health of those already most at risk, and that is environmental injustice
in action, and that is why Scott Pruitt and Trump`s EPA, I gotcha.
SHARPTON: It was 100 years ago this week that President Woodrow Wilson
signed an act granting U.S. citizenship to people born on the island of
Puerto Rico. That law started a debate that continues even today over what
exactly is the island`s relationship with the U.S.
Puerto Ricans have a limited form of citizenship. They have no
representation in congress and cannot vote for president, but they can
travel freely and work legally on American soil.
And this coming June, Puerto Ricans will go to the polls to choose between
two options, those who want to push for statehood and those who want to
keep its current U.S. commonwealth status.
Joining me now is Congressman Luis Gutierrez, democrat from Illinois. Both
his parents migrated to Chicago from Puerto Rico, and he`s a member of the
immigration and border security subcommittee. Thanks for being with me
this morning, congressman.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Good to be with you this Sunday
SHARPTON: Now, before I get into the 100-year anniversary and the vote in
June, you sit on the committee. The president is supposed to come with his
travel ban and his immigration policy this week. You also are the son of
two Puerto Rican parents who migrated here. Many Puerto Ricans – I live
in New York, travel a lot and meet people that are Puerto Rican descent and
have done activism there.
Many are swept up in this whole anti-immigration fervor, and many people
think that if you`re attacking Mexicans, that`s all Latinos, and how does a
policeman or a immigration officer know the difference between a Mexican
and a Puerto Rican?
Isn`t this, as you deal with citizenship, isn`t this whole profiling of
people that are Latino something that is front and center in the Puerto
GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. And if you look at those who support comprehensive
immigration reform and those that have stood steadfast and in the forefront
of the fight for a better immigration system, a fair immigration system,
one that really protects families, and the fight against deportations. You
see the Puerto Rican community together and united with the Latino and the
Yes, you are absolutely right, Reverend, my mom and dad came here as
migrants from Puerto Rico. They came as citizens of the United States.
Yet, they confronted the same discrimination, the same bigotry, that every
– remember, when they got here, it was 1952, so separate but equal was the
law of the land.
GUTIERREZ: And I assure you, there was a colored place to drink water and
a white, you know which one they had to drink from. So, they`ve
experienced the same discrimination here, and they understand.
And you`re very correct. So, when Trump says Mexicans are murderers,
rapists, drug dealers, the impact is on the totality of the Latino
As a matter of fact, in modern American parlance, Mexican is a catch-all
phrase for Latinos. At least, when he speaks to his audience and he says
Mexicans, I assure you that people who see me on the news think of me in
SHARPTON: And I think that a lot of people don`t understand this, which is
why in my judgment it is basically bigoted, racist. I mean, because you`re
broad-painting a whole nationality of people, origin of people, and it goes
into race as well, because when I went out marching in Arizona around
Sheriff Arpaio, what is the difference between Latinos and blacks and
somebody from Trinidad or Barbados if you`re pulling somebody over? It`s
about they`re different. They`re not one of us, us being white, male
And I mean, this is the root of why many of us are so outraged with these
policies they`re talking about around immigration.
GUTIERREZ: Two things I`d like to share with you, Rev. Number one, it is
almost a rite of passage for Puerto Ricans, those of us born here in the
United States and on the island of Puerto Rico, to be told go back where
you came from when the opposition cannot win the argument any other way.
And second, I want to recall to everybody that in 1984, in the city of
Chicago, we established the first kind of sanctuary under then mayor Harold
Washington, the first african-american mayor.
His director of employment opportunities was asked by immigration agents to
prove her citizenship and her legality, and he passed an executive order
back in 1984. So, city of Chicago`s been a forefront.
GUTIERREZ: Who was the first person confronted? It was a Puerto Rican
woman working for the then mayor of the city of Chicago, so, that`s – it`s
clearly established that the impact is on all of us.
SHARPTON: Now, congressman, you`ve put up a bill dealing with this whole
question of statehood and citizenship. There`s a vote in June. Tell us
what this means and tell us what you`re trying to do.
GUTIERREZ: Well, so, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, a member of
the Republican Party, has proposed statehood-only admission bill before the
congress of the United States.
That is not what the plebiscite in Puerto Rico is going to reflect. In
Puerto Rico, it`s going to say you can vote for statehood, you can vote for
independence, or you can vote to have a continuing relationship with the
United States but in which your nationhood or nationality is preserved.
So, given the fact that those are the three that are being voted on in the
plebiscite on June 11th, I thought that the congress of the United States
should have a playing field in which the members of congress understand
what it is the people of Puerto Rico are going to be voting on.
So, free association with the United States, it`s kind of – like, think of
a treaty between the United States and the people of Puerto Rico governing
each one but in which the people of Puerto Rico and their nationhood is one
that is recognized independence and statehood.
And look, I don`t think it`s fair that before the congress of the United
States, months before there`s a plebiscite being held in Puerto Rico, that
you only have one solution being presented before the members of the
congress of the United States.
SHARPTON: All right. I`m going to have to hold it there. Thank you for
being with us, Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Up next, we`ll go live to Selma, Alabama, where 52 years ago African-
Americans marched to demand equal voting rights, and now Attorney General
Jeff Sessions is messing up with those rights. Details when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black
History Month, we are reminded of our nation`s path towards civil rights
and the work that still remains to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Welcome back. This week marks the 52nd anniversary of the
Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights. Selma marked the turning
point for the civil rights movement as it emboldened President Johnson to
push congress on the legislation that would become the Voting Rights Act.
But this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions` justice department announced
that it would not continue an Obama-era lawsuit against the state of Texas
over a controversial voter I.D. law, laws that these have long been a focus
of activists like myself, as they have been found to specifically curtail
minority voting, threatening the gains that brave folks at Selma risked
their lives for all those years ago.
I`ve joined the movement when I was a preteenager, and I was taught about
the fights in Selma. I was eight years old when the march happened. I was
taught among others by Reverend Jesse Jackson, who as a student went to
Selma after the beating on the bridge called by Dr. Martin Luther King.
He`s joining me live from Selma this morning.
Reverend Jackson, this is not only historic recognition for you and the
generation that you have come out of of student leaders in the late `50s
and `60s, but it`s nostalgia for you. This is where you really hooked into
the King movement.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, it really is. I came
here as a similar student in 1965, and I speak again today 52 years later.
What`s critical about Selma, Brother Al, is that we`ve been denied the
protected right to vote for 85 years. When they removed the troops in
1880, they removed protections. And during that season, we were 5,000
lynching between 1880 and 1950, denying the right to vote, denying the
right to access.
Selma`s turning point was it brought in federal protections, federal
oversight, and Jefferson Davis, Jefferson Davis Sessions made the case that
it was wrong that the federal protection was intrusion on the state of
Alabama. He still holds that position.
So, by the time it got to Shelby, Judge Roberts and the Sessions ideology
prevailed. And now the protection had been removed, and therefore, you see
massive retreat on the Voting Rights Act today.
SHARPTON: And that impacted this last election. I remember sitting in the
courtroom during the argument, and when Justice Scalia talked about voting
rights as a racial entitlement, and I was sitting there with Martin Luther
King III, and we looked over at you and John Lewis and others of the
generation preceding us and those that were younger than us, and this is
going to impact all of us, and it already is.
JACKSON: Well, it is, because Al, the voting rights act of 1965, African-
Americans couldn`t vitamin, but white women couldn`t serve on jurors, 18-
year-olds couldn`t vote, serving in Vietnam. You couldn`t vote on college
campuses. You couldn`t vitamin bilingual, you could not vote
So, it took us 25 years to get from the right to vote to the protected
right to vote with enforcement. And they used schemes like gerrymandering
and role purging. All of these schemes were used.
And so, while we fight wars for democracy, we`re declaring a war on many
Americans, denying them access to voting today. And so, today the march is
as relevant as ever before.
SHARPTON: All right, well, I wanted to go back in my own history, because
you and Reverend Bill Jones and others raised us knowing the importance of
Selma, which is why many of us go every year, even though we weren`t there
in the beginning. And you were there as a young man who then raised me as
a young man to understand it. So, I`m respecting my elders this morning.
Thank you for joining me from Selma.
JACKSON: The irony of this, I`m admitting you`re older than me, Al.
SHARPTON: Up next, my final thoughts on the line that connects me, the
Selma march, and Jeff sessions. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: I remember in 1965 when the Edmund Pettus Bridge became the
scene of troopers stomping and beating marchers on that bridge. I was not
even 10 years old, and I remember the vivid pictures.
I remember my mother being so rattled by it because she was born and raised
in Dothan, Alabama, and she knew firsthand what it meant in Selma, Alabama.
And she would tell me how she couldn`t vote in her home state. I was born
and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I learned the direct impact of being
denied the right to vote from my own mother, not from history books, which
is why many years later, as I had come into my own adulthood, one of the
proudest moments of my life was on the 50th anniversary of that march
across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I marched over the shoulder of the first
African-American president of the United States as he stood next to John
Lewis, who was beaten on the bridge that day my mother talked to me about,
and holding hands with the woman who was tear-gassed there.
And as I marched across that bridge, I thought about my mother and the
millions of other mothers who were denied the right to vote, who were now
protected by the Voting Rights Act.
That brings me to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, ironically, was born
in Selma, Alabama. He`s meeting with civil rights leaders, including me,
this week. And front and center in the agenda of that meeting must be the
opposition to their continuing to fight the voter I.D. laws in Texas, some
of the strongest, and in my opinion, some of the most reactionary laws in
the country. Their opposition to the continuation of the Voting Rights Act
as we know it.
Attorney General Sessions needs to be able to be challenged and have to
explain why in a time that we have seen courts certify and make it clear
that many of these laws are discriminatory, that the impact is basically
more on people of color, and specifically blacks than others, and yet, they
are dropping this from the pursuit of justice. They will not fight against
the Texas I.D. laws as discrimination, and their attitude of that voting
rights around the country.
So, 52 years later, we are back with a native of Selma that sits in a
position saying, no, I`m not moving forward. I`m saying that we went
across that bridge 52 years ago, and we got a Voting Rights Act. Our
voting rights are still now being jeopardized with new laws, from Jim Crow
to James Crow Jr, Esquire.
I understand that we will discuss his view as attorney general. He must
understand our view as those that have had to fight for a right we should
have gotten upon our birth and have had to fight to protect it because
people gave their lives to get it to us and to give it to us.
That does it for me. Thanks for watching. And to keep the conversation
going, like us at facebook.com/politicsnation, and follow us on Twitter,
I`ll see you back here next Sunday.
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