“Reverend Pinckney, as a colleague in ministry, was not just opposed to the flag, he was opposed to the denial of Medicaid expansion, where now the majority of the state is opposing Medicaid expansion where six out of 10 black people live. He was opposed to voter suppression, voter ID in South Carolina. He was opposed to those who have celebrated the ending of the Voting Rights Act, or the gutting of Section 4, which means South Carolina is no longer a preclearance state, and the very district that he served in is vulnerable right now. He was opposed to the lack of funding for public education. He wanted to see living wages raised.- William J. Barber II, on Democracy Now!:
So I would say to my colleagues, let’s take down the flag—to the governor—but also, let’s put together an omnibus bill in the name of the nine martyrs. And all of the things Reverend Pinckney was standing for, if we say we love him and his colleagues, let’s put all of those things in a one big omnibus bill and pass that and bring it to the funeral on Friday or Saturday, saying we will expand Medicaid to help not only black people, but poor white Southerners in South Carolina, because it’s not just the flag. Lee Atwater talked about the Southern strategy, where policy was used as a way to divide us. And if we want harmony, we have to talk about racism, not just in terms of symbol, but in the substance of policies. The flag went up to fight policies. If we’re going to bring it down, we’re also going to have to change policies, and particularly policies that create disparate impact on black, brown and poor white people.
…This flag is vulgar. And it took 52 years, after ’62, to get it down. It was raised because of policy. In civil rights, when Shwerner, Chaney and—excuse me, when the girls were burned up and blown up in the Birmingham [church], and President Kennedy was killed, we got the Civil Rights Act, an omnibus bill to deal with civil rights. When Jimmie Lee Jackson and others were killed in Bloody Sunday, we got the Voting Rights Act—Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. When Dr. King was killed, we got the Fair Housing Act, that made it so you could sue people if they didn't allow you in their community. To suggest that nine lives and taking a symbol down is sufficient to honor nine deaths, nine—nine, nine deaths—is to diminish those lives.
What I’m saying to our brothers and sisters, brothers who are on the phone this morning, is look at what Reverend Pinckney stood for and those members at Emanuel fought for. They fought for more gun control. They fought for Medicaid expansion. They fought for public education. They fought to raise the living wage to—the minimum wage to a living wage. By the way, you deny Medicaid expansion, people die. People die. You deny living wages and create poverty and resegregate the public, people die. That’s been proven in a study by the Columbia University. And so, what I’m suggesting, Amy, is we ought to look at all of these issues. We ought to—and we can’t say the flag is just a start and this honors them. It does not fully honor these deaths.
And if we’re going to start and then wait and then politicize and be political—Lee Atwater said, in an infamous radio interview, he said that we stopped talking about race in a very open way, using the N-word, and we started talking about policies like tax cuts, states’ rights, forced busing. He said they sound benign, but they actually have a negative impact on the lives of African Americans, and they promote this idea that Southern whites—the problem of Southern whites is rooted in the advances of black people. That’s what this young man was, in essence, saying. He was, in essence, saying, you know, somebody’s taking over his country.
And so, I’m calling on persons, Democrats and Republicans—we’re calling the NAACP—if you really want to honor the death, these vicious deaths, then, like we’ve had to do with other deaths in this country, let’s have some substantive policy change. Why not name the Voting Rights Restoration Act, since the Supreme Court has gutted it and we haven’t fixed that in two years, why not name it the Emanuel Nine Voting Rights Act Restoration? And why not every Republican and Democrat come out and say, “We are for fixing the Voting Rights Act, because without preclearance, the very seat that Reverend Pinckney held is in jeopardy”?
Those are the kinds of substantive conversations we need to have. And gun control ought to be among those, as well. And we can do this in an omnibus way. We don’t have to wait another year or two years. We just have to have the moral courage to do it, and we have to follow what the Constitution of South Carolina already says. It’s already in the South Carolina Constitution that we should be concerned about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and doing what is best for all of the people.