Reverend Doctor William Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP and a leader of the Moral Mondays Movement was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, about the massacre of the Charleston 9, and the demands to take down the Confederate flag.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by the Reverend Dr. William Barber from Raleigh, North Carolina. Reverend Barber, where were you when you heard that Clem Pinckney, Reverend Pinckney, State Senator Pinckney, and eight others were killed in this massacre at the church in Charleston?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, we were actually in jail. About 10 of us had been arrested in the state House in North Carolina for challenging extremist politicians who have passed the worst voter suppression law in the country. In fact, parts of it were worse than South Carolina. We were arrested for merely speaking up; they told us that we could not exercise our First Amendment right. And we found out about it actually in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, I have a lot of mixed emotions. You know, I’ve said that the perpetrator has been arrested, but the killer is still at large. And historically, what causes this kind of terroristic violence is when you have racialized political rhetoric and racialized policies. They become the spawning ground, the birthing ground, if you will, for terroristic violence and violent resistance. The flag, for instance, in South Carolina was put up and began to be waved more after the 1954 Brown decision and then in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement. So the flag was put up as a resistance to policy. Dr. King called it interposition and nullification. It was a sign of that. I’m glad to hear those two representatives say what they’ve said about this, but I also heard the governor say that it will always be a part of the soil of South Carolina. Now, soil is something you grow from.
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.
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.
Systemic racism is indeed a matter of public policy, and as we watch today’s funeral service for South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Church, let us remember that we have organizing and mobilizing to do—to end racism and injustice in America.