Please welcome the ReverendDr. William Barber II.
(cheers and applause)
Thank you very much.
Welcome to the show.
I'm glad to be here, Trevor.
I'm glad to have you here.
It was, uh, Cornel West,I think, who said,
"The Reverend William Barber II
"is the closest thingthis generation will have
to a Martin Luther King Jr.,"which is...
one heck of a complimentto give somebody.
But what he was referring towas a person who is leading
and is not involved in politics.
Some people would say to you,"You're a reverend.
"Why not just be involvedin religion?
Why are you getting involvedin politics at all?"
Why are you?
Well, first of all,not necessarily
in partisan politicsbut the Bible itself,
The gospel is political,
and thosethat don't understand that
actually push a form of whatI call modern-day heresy.
If you thinkabout Jesus' first sermon,
He said, "The spiritof the Lord's upon me
to preach good newsto the poor."
The word "poor" thereis a Greek word, ptóchos,
which meansthose who have been made poor
because ofeconomic exploitation.
Moses stood up to Pharaoh.
The whole New Testamentis about a-a group of people
who find themself in a time
when a blonde-haired, blue-eyedCaesar is on the throne
who loves to build towersto himself
and put his face everywhere.
-That sounds familiar.-Yeah.
And-and the one percent
is taking everythingfrom the 99%,
uh, and they are calledto stand up to that.
-Right.-Jesus' first sermon.
So I don't know any wayto be a person of faith
and not be concerned abouthow we're treating the poor.
How we're treatingthe least of these.
How we're ensuring health care.
How we're breaking the backof the prison-industrial complex
and how we are respectingthe image of God in all people
regardless of their race,their color,
their religionor their sexuality.
Now, you're doing allof this work in North Carolina,
which in many wayshas become a microcosm
for everything that America is.
You have the imbalancesbetween rich and poor.
You have a Democratic state
that voted Democratfor a long time
and thenall of a sudden switched
and voted for Donald Trumpand voted Republican.
You have a place wherethere has been gerrymandering,
where there's a lotof racial discrimination.
In fact, the supreme courtjust made a ruling today.
If we move throughsome of these ideas,
let's talk first and foremostabout the gerrymandering
that has afflictedNorth Carolina.
This is, what,the fourth court case?
It's the fourthcourt case victory...
the third victory we've hadon gerrymandering
in the last three weeks.
And we also had a major victorylast year on voter suppression.
You know, now, North Carolina'shad an interesting history.
It's not as progressiveas people tend to think.
You know, we electedJesse Helms for years.
Uh, the only Democraticcandidate that won
for presidency other thanJimmy Carter was Barack Obama.
But that's significant.When President Obama
broke through in the Southin North Carolina in 2008,
we had just passed same-dayregistration and early voting.
2010, during redistricting,
-Trevor... they wentredistricting crazy. -Right.
They created apartheiddistricts, right?
And that stacked and packedblack voters
in a way that,in the 2012 election,
more progressivesvoted for progressives,
but becauseof the redistricting,
we end up with a super majorityextremist, uh, legislature.
That extremist legislature
then passesevery law they could.
They were anti-Medicaidexpansion,
anti-immigrant, anti-gay,anti-public education,
anti-living wage,and then they decided
to pass the worstracist voter suppression law
in the country. Now,they waited until after Shelby.
The Shelby decision,when the Supreme Court
took away preclearance.
But what we should knowabout this is in 2010,
part of the backlashthat the e... to the elect...
It wasn't so muchPresident Obama, it was that
black-white fusion,La... uh, Latino, young, old,
electorate that began to change,particularly the South.
22 states passed
racist voter suppression laws
and racially drivenredistricting laws.
22 states-- that's fo...They used to represent.
57% of African-American voters,44 U.S. senators
and over 50%of the United States congress.
That started in 2010.I got a secret for you.
(whispers):It wasn't the Russians.
Racism hacked this system
before Trump was ever elected,
before he and Putingot together.
It was racism, racially...
uh, uh, ger...racial gerrymandering
and racist voter suppression
that set upthe congress we have now,
-the state legislatures now.-Right.
And you know what,the people who got hurt the most
by the policies that have beenelected by these so-called,
um... what I call consti...
have been poor whites.
Now, let-let's talkabout that for a second.
Because... one partof your message
that has constantlyresonated with people
seems to be that you focus
on that word: "poor."
You know, the newpoor people's movement.
Going around the country--I mean, you were
the leader of the NAACPin North Carolina,
you are nowrelinquishing that role
to go out intothe rest of America
and begin a largerdiscussion around poverty.
What does that mean--"the new people's movement"?
What does it meanwhen you say "fusion"?
And what do you meanby white people
being the most affected by this?
That doesn't go to a lotof people's narratives.
First of all, in orderto understand America,
you have to understandthat what we see now
is as American as apple pie.
When someone uses racial fear
and hatred in order to excitepeople's temperament
and to get elected--it's not new.
This same process, similarly,
happened right afterthe Civil War.
After there was a period ofwhat's called Reconstruction,
then there wasa deconstruction effort.
And what did they do?They used racial fear,
-attacks on voting rights,-Right.
attacks on... tack on... taxes.
Or called it for tax cuts.
Same thing happened afterthe civil rights movement.
We ended up withthe solid South.
So we're seeing, kind of...We're in the birth pains
of a third reconstruction.
What I...What Dr. King said 50 years ago,
he said we neededa radical revolution of values.
We believe,Leo... Liz Theoharis,
the Kairo Center, and pooractivists across the country
and other peoplewho are coming together,
we need a moral revi-revivalof values
that deals with systemic racism,
not just when somebody saysthe N-word but systemic racism,
policies that hurt peopledespite... because of color,
poverty, the war economy,
and national morality.Think about it, Trevor--
we just camethrough a presidential election.
26 debates on both sidesof the aisle.
You didn't hear the word "poor."
Even though there are over100 million working poor people
in this country,14 million poor children.
We have the h... we are 34th outof 35 advanced countries
in the poverty among children.
There are 64 million peoplethat make less than $15 an hour.
We didn't hear a real discussionabout systemic racism.
We didn't hear a real discussionabout how the war economy
impacts and underminesour ability
to really dealwith our domestic issues.
Dr. King said--and we have to hear today--
that is a moral deficit.
When you go throughan entire presidential election
and you talk about tweets,e-mails, and texts
more than you talkabout our poverty,
systemic racismand the war economy
and national moralityfrom the perspective of justice,
we need a revival of valuesin this country.
Otherwise, we will continueto see the likes of Trump
and others get elected.
Here's a questionI have for you.
You say you need to seea revival in the U.S.
But could it not be arguedthat there is nothing to revive,
if America's historyis so fraught with racial,
uh, you know, injustices,
if America's use of religionis punctuated
by so many moments of peopleusing a false religion
to put others down?
I mean, people use, uh, religion
-to justify oppressinggay people -That's right.
-or to justify oppressing women.-Right.
So is it a revivalor is it something new
or is it a-a revival of an idea?
Well, they misuse religion.
I think... You know, I sharedwith you a Bible in the back
that has all 2,000 scripturesin the Bible
that talk about loveand justice.
So you had slavery, but thenyou have white abolitionists
and evangelicals and FrederickDouglass and Sojourner Truth
come together and really changethe heart of the country.
You had a civil rights movement,you had Jim Crow.
But then you have Rosa Parksand Viola Liuzzo,
a white woman, and Rabbi Heschel
and Dorothy Dayand Martin Luther King.
They come together and theybuild these fusion coalitions,
um, um, with each other,
rootedin our deepest moral values,
religious, and our deepestconstitutional values.
You know, the first principleof our Constitution
is the establishment of justice.
That's the first principle.
And then there's the principle
of promotingthe general welfare.
We have made... allow peopleto make "welfare"
a liberal word or a dirty word,
when "welfare"is a constitutional word.
So what we're saying is,we've seen periods in history.
Every progressive, uh, movement,
every progressive idea
that has taken rootin this country
or around the world hada deep moral underpinning.
Whether it wasthe abolition movement,
whether it wasthe civil rights movement,
whether it wasTheodore Roosevelt 100 years ago
saying that we needed universalhealthcare as a moral issue,
whether it was the New Deal,
whether it wasWomen's suffrage--
always there was this revivalof our moral center
and our moral core thatchallenged both parties,
that challenged all peopleto go to higher ground.
Right now, you know,we're in some low ground.
My son isan environmental physicist,
and he told me a story.
He said, "Daddy,if you ever find yourself out
"in the wilderness, don't walkthrough the wilderness
'cause snakes liveat low ground."
He said "Go up the mountain,
"because there is somethingcalled a snake line,
and if you can get high enough,snakes asphyxiate."
Well, you know,Anti-LGBT people
is above the...below the snake line.
Racism is belowthe snake line.
Voter suppressionis below the snake line.
Hating Muslims is belowthe snake line.
A country that would be arguingabout taking healthcare
is abov...below the snake line.
We have to have movementsthat will rise...
take us above the snake line.
And so, what we're saying is,what if for 80 days,
we had poor people and scholarsand preachers come together
for a seasonof civil disobedience
around an agenda we're doing
called"The Souls of Poor People,"
auditing Americaon race and poverty
and the war economysince the 1960s.
And what if we didn't justtarget Trump?
'Cause he's a symptom.
What if went... targetedMcConnell and Ryan
and 25 state capitolsas a minimum,
and people of all differentraces, colors, creeds,
and sexuality were willingto literally engage
in civil disobediencewithout an agenda? 2,000 and...
Now are you talking about whatyou did in North Carolina?
-Similar to what you did?-Similar, but...
-Sitting inat the state house... -Yes, sir.
...and making yourselves seen,making yourselves heard?
Yes, sir,to shift the narrative,
because the power of lifeand death is in the tongue.
We can't even have a new politicuntil we have a new language.
The language we're using nowis too puny.
Left versus right,liberal versus conservative.
Who said I'm just on the left?
Why do you spenda whole argument
saying people are right,
and then try to convince themthey're wrong?
"The people on the rightare wrong."
Where does that languageeven come from?
Comes from the 17th century,
uh, the French revolution.
Who says Trevor is a liberalor a conservative?
Why can't you be bothif you want to conserve justice
and liberally spread itto everybody?
-The languagewe have is so puny. -Right.
We're not even...We have politicians,
even Democratic politiciansthat'll say,
"We're trying to fightfor the middle class."
Well, what about allof these millions
of people that are poor?
How can we leave people out andnot even say the word "poor"?
We said, "Those who arestriving to make it
into the middle class."
Or we Boehner when...
You remember when he said, um,
-poor people had an idea theydidn't have to work. -Right.
Or Paul Ryan suggesting
that poor people are on somekind of glorified vacation.
The language is too puny.
And we need a movement
that can reshift the moralconversation in this country.
(applause and cheering)
-An honor having youon the show. -Thank you.
Thank you very much, Reverend.
For more informationabout his work,
check out the Web sitepoorpeoplescampaign.org.
Reverend William Barber,everybody.