Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II has been president of the North Carolina NAACP since 2005.

Facing the Issues That Divide Us

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Rev. William Barber Says Biden administration must not sacrifice racial and economic justice for false unity.

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! discussed the challenges ahead for the Biden administration with Rev. William Barber:

“You know, I was asked by the administration to preach this once-every-four-year, interfaith inaugural service, that was streamed out from the National Cathedral. And interestingly enough, they chose the Scripture, Isaiah 58, which is a very powerful Scripture, recognized by Christians, Jews and Muslims. And it actually says that there is a way to be what we call repairers of the breach, repairers of the gaps in societies, the inequities of society. In fact, the Scripture actually says we have to. And the first step is, you have to repent of the sin of how we got here. That Scripture was written in a time of narcissistic, mean, lying and greedy leadership. But then it actually says you can be a repairer of the breach if you stop unfair practices, if you lift from the bottom, if you care for those who have been marginalized by oppressive politics and oppressive leadership.”

Watch the full interview.

 

“So, the reason why it was important to say — and I think this is really what the president is saying, if we listen closely — is, unity does not mean unanimous. Unity, in this sense, has to mean enough of us, enough of us who come together and believe there is no way to heal the soul of the nation, i.e. the attitude of the nation, if you don’t heal the sickness in the body of the nation. And that means enough of us have to decide that we have to address systemic racism in all of its forms, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, denial of healthcare, the war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism.”

“So, we cannot say we are unified. It cannot be just kumbaya. It has to be fundamental change. And what I talked about in that sermon was a third Reconstruction and facing the issues that divide us. It is public policy, that we must have enough of us unified to actually move the nation forward. It’s not unanimous. We don’t have to have unanimous. It’s not even unanimity, not everybody. It’s enough of us who believe that we have to go forward.”

“President Biden spoke to over 1.4 million people in September, when he was a candidate. And he actually said something very interesting. He said that ending poverty would not be an aspirational thing for his administration, but a theory of change. A theory of change. And we took him seriously at that.”

“After the election, we didn’t really want to meet with the president and vice president after the election. We wanted them to get their team in place. We wanted to meet with them after they were inaugurated, in the White House, with poor people, economists, lawyers, public health officials and moral leaders.”

“And what we met with was the domestic policy team, where Ambassador Susan Rice is leading it. And it was a very powerful meeting. I did not just meet with them alone, and Reverend Liz Theoharis. We actually took in 32 people — white Kansas farmers, Black fast-food workers, undocumented persons. We took in people from Appalachia to Alabama, along with lawyers, economists and others. And we presented a 14-point policy for the healing of the nation, a moral and economic agenda for the first 50, 100 days. And what we said were these 14 things. I can do them real quickly.”

“They must enact comprehensive, free and just COVID relief, that lifts from the bottom. We must have guaranteed quality healthcare, that leads to universal healthcare. We must expand Medicaid immediately, regardless of any preexisting conditions. We must have a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour immediately. We must update the poverty measures, so we are actually getting a real picture of poverty in this nation.”

“Right now, in the midst of COVID, where we had 140 million poor and low-wealth people, going into COVID, and millions more have been added because of COVID, we have to have $15 an hour. And it can’t be five years from now, 10 years from now. It must be immediate. Now, the president can sign an executive order for federal workers now, but what we must have is legislation that passes $15 an hour.”

“And it’s amazing to me that some of the people are talking against this, particularly these Republicans that come out of the South. They live in the states that are the poorest and have the lowest wages, which should always let us know that people who come out of the South, many of them, they use racial tactics, like voter suppression and second primaries, to get elected. But once they get elected, they actually pass bills or block bills, that benefit corporations. So there’s a connection between racism and greed that we must always understand.”

“We must guarantee housing for all. We must enact a federal jobs program to build up infrastructure, and investments in public institutions, climate resilience, energy, in poor and low-wealth communities especially. We must protect and expand voting rights now. We must guarantee safe, quality and equitable public education, that supports protections against resegregation of schools. We must have comprehensive and just immigration reform. We must ensure all of the rights of Indigenous people. We must enact fair taxes and repeal the Trump tax cuts.”

“We must use the power of executive orders to undo all the negative executive orders. And namely, we must redirect the bloated Pentagon budget towards the priorities of real national security, like education, healthcare, infrastructure, and wages. And we ask for a meeting at the White House with poor and low-wealth people. That’s the agenda that we believe will heal the nation, because it will deal with the sickness in the body of the nation.”

“The COVID relief plan, the comprehensive $1.9 trillion, it’s a powerful beginning. There are some things that are not in there that we’re evaluating now. But that needs to pass, and it needs to go through reconciliation. We don’t need to allow a filibuster that can stop that. It’s a trillion dollars too late, in a real sense, because the first CARES Act that was passed, 84% of that money went to corporations and banks. And then they held up passing the next $900 million. McConnell did.”

“The only way to ensure domestic tranquility is to establish justice.”

Listen to the full interview at www.democracynow.org/2021/1/25/rev_william_barber_covid_inequality.

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