a candid conversation with the the fiery heir apparent to martin luther king

 In the 19 months since the murder of Martin Luther King, only one man has
emerged as a likely heir to the slain leader's pre-eminent position in the
civil rights movement: Jesse Louis Jackson, the 27-year-old economic
director of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Reverend
Jackson's first national exposure, in fact, came as a result of his
closeness to Dr. King. He was talking to King on the porch of the Lorraine
Motel in Memphis when the fatal shot was fired and cradled the dying man in
his arms.  The very next day, at a Chicago City Council meeting, Mayor
Richard Daley read a eulogy that pledged a "commitment to the goals for
which Dr. King stood." The Reverend Jackson had flown in from Memphis
without sleep to attend the ceremony; he stood up in a sweater stained with
Dr. King's blood and shouted to the assembled Chicago political
establishment, "His blood is on the hands of you who would not have welcomed
him here yesterday."
That gesture demonstrated both the militant indignation and the dramatic
flair that mark Jackson's charismatic style. The New York Times has written
that he "sounds a little like the late Reverend Martin Luther King and a
little like a Black Panther." It added that "almost everyone who has seen
Mr. Jackson in operation acknowledged that he is probably the most
persuasive black leader on the national scene."
Jackson's personality is possibly even more in tune with the present black
mood than Dr. Kings was, because, as Richard Levine pointed out in Harper's,
Dr. King was middle-class Atlanta, but Jesse Jackson was born in poverty in
Greenville, South Carolina." Jackson calls himself a "country preacher," but
he combines his down-home style with a sharp intellect. He attended the
University of Illinois for one year but dropped out in 1960 to attend the
Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina in Greensboro, where
the first black sit-in had taken peace earlier that year. He was an honor
student, quarterbacked the football team and organized civil rights
demonstrations. After graduation, Jackson went North to study at the Chicago
Theological Seminary, where he devoted most of his extracurricular time to
local civil rights work.
It was Dr. King himself who originally spotted Jackson's leadership
potential during a massive civil rights drive in Chicago in the summer of
1966 and appointed him to head all of SCLC's economic projects in the North.
In the three years since that appointment, Jackson has concentrated most of
his efforts on the Chicago-based project called Operation Breadbasket and
made that pilot program the most impressive demonstration of black economic
and political power in the United Slates. Breadbasket's organizational
methods are now being applied under Jackson's guidance in 15 cities ranging
from Los Angeles to Brooklyn.
The project's primary goals are to create jobs for blacks and to encourage
them to own and operate businesses. Boycotting, or the threat of it, is
Breadbasket's most potent weapon. The effectiveness of this technique was
most evident in a breakthrough victory over the huge Atlantic and Pacific
Tea Company, which operates 40 stores in Chicago's black ghetto. To avoid
the financial loss that a boycott would have caused,  the A & P signed a
pact guaranteeing jobs for blacks and the distribution of black products on
A & P shelves. As Business Week reported in a story about Operation 
Breadbasket, "Nationally, the organization's efforts have resulted in about
5000 jobs and $40,000,000 in annual salaries to Negroes. But the Chicago
campaign [against A & P] represents Breadbasket's most significant victory,
for it is thee biggest settlement with a chain in a single city and set a
precedent for other food-chain negotiations across the country."
The A & P pact was especially significant because-in addition to a
guarantee of over 700 jobs for blacks and marketing more black businessmen's
products-the company also agreed to use black-owned janitorial and and
exterminating companies in its ghetto stores, to bank in black-owned banks,
to advertise in black media and to have black construction firms build its
ghetto stores. Monthly meetings between representatives of A & P and
Breadbasket are designed to assure that the company is not shirking. On the
personal level sensitivity seminars attended by A & P executives attempt to
awaken management to the existence and effects of prejudice. Similar
agreements have been signed with more  than half of all the major food
distributors in the ghetto.
The Reverend Jackson created an even more far-reaching program last spring,
when he initiated the Illinois Hamburger Campaign. Believing that hunger is
the one issue that could unite the black and white poor, Jackson led a
caravan to all of the poverty areas of Illinois, ending with demonstrations
at the state capitol in Springfield. The pressure this exerted on the
Illinois legislature was so great that a planned cut of $125,000,000 in
welfare funds was restored at a time when New York and California were
making sizable cuts in their welfare payments.  An impassioned appeal by
Jackson, from the steps of the capitol building, inspired a bill to provided
school lunches for all of the needy children in the state. Jackson also
extracted a promise from the state legislature to prevail on Washington for
special surplus-food allotments for the poor. The Illinois Hunger Campaign
was conceived by Jackson as an extension of the Poor Peoples' Campaign begun
by Dr. King, and there are plans for similar efforts in other states next
No matter what his other commitments may be, Jackson always attends the
Saturday-morning meeting of Operation Breadbasket. The location has been
changed three times this year, because the congregation continually outgrows
its premises, and Breadbasket presently resides in a 6000-seat movie theater
on Chicago's South Side. The lobby of the theater is filled with filled
with tables displaying black merchandise, and the auditorium itself is hung
with signs that exhort the gathering to BUY BLACK PRODUCTS and USE BLACK
SERVICES. The first hour of the meeting is devoted to Gospel music by the
Operation Breadbasket orchestra and choir, interspersed with the business
for the week-either boycotts or special "buy-ins." PLAYBOY'S Associate
Articles Editor, Arthur Kretchmer, who conducted this interview with
Jackson, describes the remainder of recent meeting.
"After Breadbasket's projects were out of the way, a frail old lady, whose
face was ravaged by time and much else, was given the stage. In a quiet
voice, and with great dignity, she briefly described the humiliation she had
suffered during an interview with a welfare worker the previous week. Then
she said she had come to the meeting to gain the strength that would enable
her to block her door in the future.  'They can starve me,' she said, 'but
I'll die before they come back with their damn forms and their damn
questions.' With that, she slowly raised her fist in the black-power salute
and the audience gave her the most sympathetic ovation I've ever heard.
"Then Jackson was introduced-and greeted by ten minutes of standing,
clapping, stamping love. He is a big man with an imperial manner. The head
is leonine and the facial expression at once fierce and sullen. He was
dressed, like a Mod black emperor, in a brilliantly colored dasahiki,
bell-bottom jeans and high-top country shoes. Biologist Desmond Morris has
written that a leader never scrabbles, twitches, fidgets or falters, and
JacKson qualifies. For over an hour, he delivered a passionate sermon that
described the black man's plight in white society. It was filled with street
talk, down-home slang and quotations from the Bible-but its effect was Greek
tragedy with soul.
"The sermon was punctuated by piano and organ riffs similar to a rhythm
section's backing of a good jazz soloist. Half-way into an eloquent plea
that blacks not waste their energy fighting among themselves, he called on
one of the choir members, Sister Theresa, to sing 'I Can See the Promised
Land,' because 'I need it,' he said. At one point in the sermon, he paused,
clearly exhausted, and turned to the audience to say, 'Yes, I'm tired.' An
old woman's voice called out, 'Take care of him, Lord. We need him too bad
for You to let him die.'
"Everyone around Jackson is acutely aware of his poor health. He has
suffered this year from traces of sickle-cell anemia and assorted viruses
brought on by lowered resistance. He's been hospitalized a half-dozen times
but never missed a Saturday at Breadbasket. It is common for a parishioner
to greet him with, 'Hello, Reverend Jesse. Are you taking your medicine?'
"After Jackson finished the service, the Operation Breadbasket orchestra
played a dozen choruses of syncopated, willful 'We Shall Overcome,' while
all 6000 people in the audience-a number of whom, were white-stood holding
hands and swaying back and forth in one of the oldest, most moving rituals
of the civil rights struggle. The effect of the morning was catharsis and
I don't think anyone who entered the theater that morning could have left
without shedding some of the despair that seems to be afflicting the black
liberation movement.
"A few moments later, I had a completely different, but indelible,
impression of Jackson's impact. I was waiting to see him in a small dressing
room. He was resting in an armchair, talking to a very pretty, shy black
girl of about 20 who was standing near him. She said to him, with some
embarrassment, Reverend, I just want to tell you how much you mean to all of
us. He slowly raised his head and said, 'Nell, that's just a lot of talk. If
I was really important to you, you'd take pity on my old tired body and
invite me home, so your momma could fix a fine meal for me.' She was
immediately flustered and said,'Oh, Reverend. You're just having fun with
me.  You don't mean it. You wouldn't come to my house.' He looked at her
with a stern expression that he couldn't quite prevent from turning to a
smile and said,'You tell your momma I'm coming over Thursday night. Tell her
to do some fixin'.' She looked at him, trying to tell if he were serious,
and her eyes widened, her hands began to fuss and her jaw dropped open.
Finally, she said, 'Would yell really? Would you really come? If you do,
I'll charge my friends admission at the door. A half a dollar to see you and
a dollar to touch you!'  Jackson looked at the girl and then at me, laughing
his appreciation. Actually, on those rare occasions when he's in the city,
Jackson is well taken care of by his beautiful 25-year-old wife, Jacqueline-
and harassed by his three energetic children."
Because of Jackson's heavy schedule, Kretchmer couldn't get enough time with
him until both look refuge in a rural retreat where the "country preacher"
was free to explore at length the militant new mood of the black struggle
and his own role in it. Since Dr. King's death had seemed for many to
signal the end of the nonviolent phase of the civil rights movement-a
philosophy Jackson continues to champion -the interview began with that

PLAYBOY: Though the mood of blacks has changed markedly since the death of
Martin Luther King, are you still committed, as Dr. King was, to nonviolence
as the only way to will racial justice?
JACKSON: We will be as nonviolent as we can be and as violent as we must be.
We should not choose violence first, because it is an inhumane way of
dealing with problems. We also do not have the military resources to deal
with the American power structure. There's no sense in facing tanks with a
.22 pistol. Our circumstances and terrain would not give us the freedom to
use a violent strategy. The ghettos are built like a military stockade.
America never needs to actually come in. The lights can be turned off, the
water shut off and the food supply stopped. We could be eliminated in the
ghetto without anyone even crossing the railroad tracks to get us.
PLAYBOY: Do you mean to imply that if you did have the military resources,
you would wage war against white Americans?
JACKSON: I am just pointing out that there is a strong pragmatic case for
nonviolence. I am philosophically committed to nonviolence because I think
it is the creative alternative and should be used as long as it helps
protect and sustain life. It is a creative alternative to the Pentagon, for
example. Just as there are forces in this world with a design for killing.
so must there be forces with a design for healing.

PLAYBOY: Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver, among others, say that
unless blacks create their own design for killing, they are going to be
killed themselves. Is this an irrevocable split in the Black movement?
JACKSON: No. The competition to nonviolence does not come from Stokely or
Eldridge; it comes from America's traditions. It comes from little children
seeing cowboys solve their moral problems by killing. The competition to
nonviolence comes from the military draft, with its nine weeks' training on
how to kill. The trouble is that nonviolence is so often defined as refusal
to fight, and that is the American definition of cowardice. In fact,
marching unarmed against the guns and dogs of the police requires more
courage than does aggression. The perverted idea of manhood coming from the
barrel of a gun is what keeps people from understanding nonviolence.

PLAYBOY: If your life were endangered, could you use a gun?
JACKSON: Yes. Nonviolence does not demand that one develop an absolute,
universal commitment to pacifism. That old notion of being in a dark alley
and having a man step out with a gun does not apply. Of course, I am going
to do whatever I must to get rid of the man and his gun. I preach
nonviolence because it's the better alternative. In that alley, there is no
alternative. But pence is the alternative to war, and nonviolence should be
seen as the antidote to violence, not simply as its opposite. Nonviolence is
more concerned with saving life than with saving face. It is the most
sensible way to combat white society's military oppression of blacks.

PLAYBOY: no you think white America is actually waging war on black America?
JACKSON: Yes, it's a war. Sometimes it's waged by a white army in full
military gear, as any weapons count among special riot police would show.
But it's also a war of attrition, a siege, in which the violence takes other
forms. To me, violence is starving a child or maintaining a mother on
insufficient welfare. Violence is going to school 12 years and getting five
years' worth of education. Violence is 30,000,000 hungry in the most
abundant nation on earth. White America must understand that men will steal
before they starve, that if there is a choice of a man's living or dying, he
will choose to live, even if it means other men die. These are human
reactions, and we cannot assume that black people are going to be anything
less than human.

PLAYBOY: Is there a point at which you feel violence would be justified?
JACKSON: If I saw that there was no other way for us to he liberated, yes.

PLAYBOY: For many white people, the most disturbing incident of potential
black violence this year was portrayed by a news picture of armed students
at Cornell. What do you think about their use of weapons?
JACKSON: They didn't use them, except in the symbolic sense of warning
groups that had threatened them that they were capable of their own
military defense. I have doubts about the enduring success of the technique
of military defense, but I appreciate the feelings that brought such a
desperate mood into existence.

PLAYBOY: Another group that has endorsed violence as a tactic is the Black
Panthers, which J. Edgar Hoover has called "the greatest threat among the
black extremist groups to the internal security of the United States." Do
you support the Panthers?
JACKSON: I'm very sympathetic to the Panthers. They are the logical result
of the white man's brutalization of blacks. The remarkable thing about them
is that they have not conducted any military offenses. They have not gone to
downtown America to shoot up white-owned stores. The Panthers are a defense
for justice, just as the Ku Klux Klan is an offense for injustice. That's a
qualitative difference between picking up a gun to keep from being
brutalized and picking up a gun to inflict brutality. As far as Mr. Hoover's
opinion goes, I don't think that his perspective is relevant when it comes
to the problems that are facing this society-which is surprising, when you
consider all the good information he gets. He certainly knows what I'm
thinking about and talking about most of the time.

PLAYBOY: Does the FBI keep you under surveillance?
JACKSON: Yes. It's admitted tapping Dr. King's phone, and I tried to speak
with him at least twice a week. The persons he spoke with were also
frequently tapped, and I don't imagine they've untapped me, as my activities
have increased since his death. But anything they've heard me say, if they
come around, I'll be glad to repeat out loud to them. I want to add that I
consider Mr. Hooter himself to be one of the greatest threats to our
national security. His wire tapping and other surveillance methods violate
the principles of democracy. The FBI director doesn't account to anyone,
not even to the Attorney General; and, in reality, he heads what is very
nearly a secret police.
It's on this subject of abusive police power that the Panthers are profound.
No white community in America has a majority of black police, but black
communities are militarily occupied by white police. The Panthers are right
to say that the white police should be gotten out, just as the Americans
were right in saying, "Get the Redcoats out." We are saying, "Get the
bluecoats out."

PLAYBOY: Aren't you really saying, "Get the white bluecoats out"?
JACKSON: No. We don't want white bluecoats, but we don't want black
bluecoats, either. We don't want to be policed by a supreme white authority,
even if the agents of the authority are black. We're saying that the black
community should police itself; the authority for the police should come
from the home area, not from city hall, which is alien to us, has never been
sympathetic to us and openly supports the police who oppress us.

PLAYBOY: Do you think, as some radicals seem to, that America is a police
JACKSON: For black men, it is. Nobody in the black community who's had the
experience of being made to spread-eagle over a car for no reason, or
because of a simple traffic ticket, would disagree with that. Some black
folks disagree, but that's because of their lack of experience. If they just
keep on living, they'll confront the reality soon enough. The reality is
tyranny, and the tyrant must be opposed. Whether we are called Operation
Breadbasket or Black Panthers or niggers, we know who the enemy is. We will
gain our freedom by being more willing to die for it than the slavemaster
is to die to keep us enslaved.

PLAYBOY: Do you agree with the controversial Panther demand that all black
prisoners he released from prison?
JACKSON: Yes, but there are probably some black men who have been so broken,
whose lives have been so twisted that they would be dangerous to all other
men, both black and white, and I suppose they should not be released from
confinement, though I would hope that genuine rehabilitation would replace
detention. But just as the black community is a colony of white America, and
those of us within that colony should be liberated, so should those of us
who have been especially victimized by the viciousness of the colonial
rules, and tried by the white slavemaster, be released. All of the black
community should be liberated, and that includes those behind steel bars as
well as those behind economic and social bars.

PLAYBOY: The subject of black crime preoccupies white America and, in the
opinion of some commentators, helped elect Richard Nixon President. Many
whites feel that their fears of black crime are completely justified,
particularly in the light of your previous statement that black prisoners
should he freed. How would you respond to that?
JACKSON: The Crime Commission appointed by Lyndon Johnson showed that most
black crime is against blacks. The white folks who exploit us are as safe
as a baby in a womb. The black man's hostility comes from the deprivation
and frustration and tension of the ghetto. Most people handle that hostility
surprisingly well; and those who don't, take it out on the nearest target
-other blacks. Another reason black men hurt other black men is that the
punishment is less than when you hurt a white man. The price for hostility
against whites is too high. To talk back to a white boss is to be fired. And
to make violent gestures against white people is to invite instant death. So
the hostility that is bred in the ghetto leads to suffering-but mostly by
blacks, not whites.

PLAYBOY: The incidence of property crimes by blacks is very high and is
increasing. Do you think the white middle class is wrong to be concerned
about protecting its possessions?
JACKSON: That Property usually belongs to blacks, not whites. It is the
ghetto resident whose home is robbed, sometimes two or three times in the
same month. Black crimes against property are the result of desperation. I
said earlier that a man will steal before he starves. Black crime is crime
because of need; whites commit crimes of greed. Black folks do not set up
elaborate kidnappings for a million-dollar ransom. The financial value of
all of the property crimes committed by blacks in one year doesn't equal the
money lost in the famous salad-oil swindle. Blacks are not out for a big
score; they are out to stay alive. And when he's caught, the black man can't
afford bail and a good attorney. Already wounded and probably crippled by
the system, he spends more time than whites inside the jail system, where he
is further destroyed by it. His criminality is molded by the police state.
I was especially aware of this in the South, where I grew up. The police
were an absolute power; they were not merely enforcers of the law; they were
the law. They could do anything they wanted. because the judges and the
legal system were thoroughly racist.

PLAYBOY: Do you have any recollections of personal confrontations with the
police when you were young?
JACKSON: I remember that they seemed to get a kick out of breaking down the
front door if you didn't answer quickly enough. When I was a little kid,
we'd run and hide under the house at the sight of a police car. Later on,
they locked us up for things like vagrancy or cursing. In time, they would
kill a few of the guys I grew up with, and it was always "in the line of
duty." There were some humorous incidents, too. One cop in Greenville, South
Carolina, became famous for locking up a black man for "reckless
eyeballing"; he had been staring at a white woman about 100 feet away, And I
remember we weren't allowed to stand around the store windows while they
were changing clothes on the white store dummies. My Northern friends get a
big kick out of that, but it's symbolic of the awesome pattern of Southern
My own most frightening experience, though, didn't involve a policeman.
There was a store on our street run by a white man named Jack. The customers
were all black, and it was a comfortable place. Jack used to play with us
kids all the time, and we'd run errands for him. One day, I went in and the
store was full of people, but I was in a big hurry, the kind of hurry a six-
year-old is always in. I said, "Jack, I'm late. Take care of me." He didn't
hear me, so I whistled at him. He wheeled around and snatched a .45 pistol
from a shelf with one hand and kneeled down to grab my arm in his other
fist. Then he put the pistol against my head and, kneading my black arm in
his white fingers, said, "Goddamn it! Don't you ever whistle at me again,
you hear?" I didn't think he was really going to shoot me, even then; the
thing that got to me was that none of the black people in the store did or
said anything. My impression of the super-power of whites to do absolutely
anything they want and get away with it right in the middle of blacks was a
traumatic experience that I've never recovered from.

PLAYBOY: Are such experiences for blacks still part of the Southern
JACKSON: Yes, but less frequently, and I think Dr. King is the reason for
the change. The significance of his movement can be seen only against a
Southern background. He taught us that even if the police-the law-say you
can't sit clown, sit down anyway. In most communities until then, there
weren't five men who had that kind of courage. He challenged us to stand up
to the police we used to run from. In Montgomery, Alabama, the cradle of the
Confederacy, he rose up and declared that black men deserve their full
rights of manhood. There wasn't enough money to buy him, and there weren't
enough jails to hold him. Death itself isn't enough to stop black men from
being free, for crucifixion leads to resurrection.

PLAYBOY: One of the seeming ironies of the civil rights movement is that
while the Southern black has gone far toward winning freedom, the ghetto
black in the North is in an increasingly frustrated mood. How do you explain
JACKSON: The Southern movement fulfilled some of the hopes it raised. We
achieved our goals in the bus boycotts and the freedom rides. The public-
accommodation and voting-rights bills were passed. We haven't had
corresponding success in the North. The Northern black has seen some
progress, but his advancement doesn't compare with the advancement of white
society. The economy quadruples while blacks creep along with unemployment
as high as 35 and 40 percent in some black communities. When the white
unemployment rate was 20 percent in 1933, it was a Depression that required
massive aid. Rut the black unemployment rate is ignored.
The most frustrated are those who have worked hardest but remain unrewarded.
A black man in Chicago with a master's degree earns less than a white man
with a high school diploma. You can't tell a man who has been to college
that he's not educated enough to qualify for a job that goes to white high
school dropouts If you do, you castrate him. And the Northern black is more
frustrated because the indifference of white colonialism in the North is
more vicious than the paternalism of the South. The Northern industrialist
doesn't have any emotional relationship with the black; he maintains only
economic contact. In the North, you get white smiles while the shops are
open, but the hypocritical charade is over when the shops close and whites
take the money out of the ghetto. It's no coincidence that those stores are
the primary targets in a riot.

PLAYBOY: Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty once stated on television that he
thought riots were caused by the mass media. He said that blacks rioted in
imitation of the disruptive behavior they saw on television and that if
there had been no television coverage of Watts during the first hours of the
trouble there in 1965, there would have been no riot. Do you feel that's
JACKSON: That's absurd. The riots are expressions of the unheard. The
rioters are the mass of black people who invest hard labor on nasty chores
-they are floor cleaners, shoeshine boys, hospital attendants-and they find
that they have almost no share, no investment, no dividend in a 900-billion
-dollar economy. Riots are a reaction to pain and a sense of hopelessness.
There are black people whom no President's program has ever reached. My
grandmother has lived through every President from 1900 to 1969, and the
sum total of their grass-roots programs has not been able to teach her the
26 letters of the alphabet. Riots do not solve problems, but they indicate
what those problems are. It is the responsibility of an aching man to tell
the truth about his pain. It isn't to his advantage to give the appearance
of happiness when he is hurting. In the past, we passively accepted the
immoral acts of white society to prove that we were nice, decent folks, but
that was our foolishness. Black folks assumed that Pharaoh was going to help
them simply because it was the right thing to do. Now we know that Pharoah's
commitment is to property, not to persons. He must be made to do the right

PLAYBOY: It has been alleged by some observers, however, that the riots
reveal a kind of death wish on the part of blacks.
JACKSON: It's true that there is in the young generation an inclination
toward nihilism. To challenge a police head-quarters with a handful of
bricks is a suicidal act, but it is also a blow for freedom. What the riots
really reveal is the beastliness and sadism of white police. Nearly all of
the people who died in riots were blacks killed by whites whose ethics
dictate that nickels and dimes are more important than flesh and blood.

PLAYBOY: There are whites who say that activists such as yourself foster the
riots, that without you, there'd be racial peace.
JACKSON: White folks don't want peace; they want quiet. The price you pay
for peace is justice. Until there is justice, there will be no peace or

PLAYBOY: At the time of Dr. King's death, many blacks said that white
America had lost its last chance to solve the race problem without
destroying itself. Do you think that's true?
JACKSON: No, I don't, although I was one of the first people to make that
statement. It seemed to me then that Dr. King's death ended America's last
chance to be redeemed. But it is not for us to determine the chances of
redemption. There are still people being born with hope, still people
fighting with hope. God has not yet damned this country, though one may
wonder how long the wicked will prosper. America at this point is the most
violent nation in the world.

PLAYBOY: Isn't that a cliche? Don't other nations have wars and
JACKSON: Of course. But no other nation wants so clearly to be the world's
policeman. No other nation comes down so consistently on the wrong side of
every revolutionary movement for liberation from tyranny. Wherever there is
a rebellion, our conservative industrialists are helping to end it, whether
it's in Angola or Venezuela. Any place we buy oil or rubber, or sell a
little Coca-Cola and chewing gum, we've got to protect the old order. We
spend $900 per second to kill tile Viet Cong but only $77 per person per
year to feed the hungry at home. We maintain soldiers in 20 countries around
the world, yet we always talk about the Russian threat or the Chinese
threat. China does not have a standing army outside of China;
Russia has two. Yet we assume that someone's after us, that the "free world"
is threatened simply because people want the chance to control their own
economic market so they can participate in the world decision-making order.
They don't want to go Communist or to crush democracy; they just want to end
their serf status; and that's all blacks want here at home.

PLAYBOY: It might seem incongruous to some that you can make this sweeping
indictment of America, an indictment that could easily serve as the lead
paragraph in one of SDS' revolutionary pamphlets, and yet, as economic
director of SCLC and leader of Operation Breadbasket, you are leading blacks
who clearly want to buy into the American dream.

JACKSON: It's very simple. For all its faults, America is the only country
with the capacity to save the world, even at the very moment that we seem
bent on destroying it. We can produce more food, medicine, trained and
educated people than anyone else. We try to export our killers, but people
have stopped wanting them; they would accept our doctors, scientists and
creators, but our armies are outdated. We could liberate nations from their
poverty and their pestilence if our value system would allow us to do so.
The irony is how close we are to being something great. One fifth of our
nation is starving, yet we have the capacity to overfeed it. We could end
the starvation in India, heal the sickness in Africa. But the tragedy is
that we are as close to destroying the world as we are to saving it. We
spent 78.4 billion dollars to kill this year but only 12 billion to heal.
Those who are silent now, or are neutral now, must make a decision before
the opportunity passes forever.

PLAYBOY: Are you encouraged by the young white radicals who seem determined
to change America's value system?
JACKSON: The issues that move them are qualitatively different from the ones
that concern blacks. Many of the radical whites say that materialism is no
good, that one must seek a new level of spiritualism. Well, we lived for
years with spiritualism but without any materialism. Now we'd like to try to
balance the two. Many of the young whites are living on the prerogatives of
the materialism they shun . They confront their school in the winter, but in
the summer they go off to Sweden or Hawaii. Their discussions of America's
corruption take place over steaks. They spend $5000 a year to attend the
schools they shut down. We often have the same moral ideals, but the
perspective is very different.
I have also been disappointed that we were unable to get any mass help from
young whites on the hunger caravan we recently concluded in Illinois. The
students were so radical that feeding starving people didn't constitute
revolution to them, because "a man needs to do more than eat," But while
they were saying that, they were eating very well. To us, they tend to be

PLAYBOY: Weren't the strikes at both Harvard and Columbia concerned mainly
with accusations by white students that those schools abuse the black
JACKSON: I do not mean to condemn their creative protests. They accurately
reflect Jesus' position that man cannot live by bread alone. They come from
houses with boats and cars and more money than they can spend, yet they find
their lives empty. There is beauty in their hearing the heartbeats of other
humans. What I'm saying is that there is a lack of depth in their protest,
in terms of the black community's real and immediate needs. But I think I
must reserve judgment on those whites who are living off the prerogatives of
wealth. If they are legitimately concerned, they will take what Daddy leaves
and pay back some of that money in reparations to blacks.
PLAYBOY: DO you agree with James Forman's proposal that the churches pay
reparations to blacks?
JACKSON: Yes, and eventually the demands will not be limited to the
churches. The black community in America is an underdeveloped nation, a
victim of America's cold war against her own black people. In that war, all
of our supply lines have been cut-educational, commercial, political and
psychological. We've been the victims of an unjust war and are due
reparations from those who launched it. Business owes us reparations, first
for enslaving us, then for refusing to give us work or hiring us for only
the lowest-paying, most grueling jobs. And even when we have an opportunity
to do the same work as white men, we are paid less for it. The labor unions,
for whom we fought, owe us reparations for locking us out. The church is
also liable, because it has disregarded its own moral imperatives and
cooperated in creating and maintaining a racist society.

PLAYBOY: Do you expect these demands to be met?
JACKSON: For the most part, no.

PLAYBOY: Then isn't the plea for reparations a rhetorical gesture rather
than a serious proposal?
JACKSON: The demands are perfectly serious. If they were met, it would mean
a great step toward unifying the two separate and unequal societies that the
Kerner Commission described after it studied the Newark and Detroit riots.
The point is that SCLC and I are not naive enough to think that the
businessmen who control the assets of corporations, labor unions and
churches will voluntarily act from some inner moral impetus. America's god
is money. God is your ultimate concern, what you give maximum sacrifice for,
what you will die for. God is what you worship. The American ideal is
maximum profit and minimum person; there is no impulse to share the wealth,
to raise up those less fortunate. What counts is the name on the front of
the building. Well, I say what counts are the hands that do the work inside.

PLAYBOY: Isn't money also one of Operation Breadbasket's major concerns?
JACKSON: Yes. It's a concern because it's a reality. But the essential
purpose of Operation Breadbasket is to have blacks control the basic
resources of their community. We want to control the banks, the trades, the
building construction and the education of our children. This desire on our
part is a defensive strategy evolved in order to stop whites from
controlling our community and removing the profits and income that belong to
black people. Our programs are dictated by the private-enterprise economy in
which we find ourselves. In my heart, however, I know that the entire system
is a corruption. To me, the earth belongs to everybody; it's just a very
successful rumor white folks have going that the earth belongs to them. The
earth is the Lord's and no man creates anything that didn't come from other
things that God put here. No man really takes anything away, either. No man
can claim that he made soil or wool or milk. White folks can make airplanes,
but they can't make mountains. They can make syrup but not water. Genesis
says that the Lord created the earth and everything therein and gave man,
not white man, dominion over it and created a dominion sufficient for
everyone to be able to survive and prosper. Now the concept of Genesis has
obviously been destroyed, and it is our concern to rid America of some of
her arrogance and control of God's resources by saying that the food belongs
to all the people.

PLAYBOY: Do you think farmers and suppliers should give their food away?
JACKSON: I don't care how the people get food, as long as they get it. The
Government can buy the food and give it away in a large-scale version of the
present inadequate surplus-food and food-stamp programs. Or it can give the
poor enough money to buy the food themselves.

PLAYBOY: Many middle-class whites think that the poor would only buy booze
and guns if they had the money.
JACKSON: I challenge anyone with that belief to tour the reeking, rat
-infested tenements of Harlem or Chicago's South Side and count the number
of alcoholic welfare mothers. There won't be many. Welfare people do not
account for this nation's high number of alcoholics. Nor are most guns
bought by the black poor. In a home where the children are eating wall
plaster because they are hungry, a gun isn't looked upon as an important
commodity. But I don't care if the Government wants to give out food instead
of money. I would bless any device it might come up with, as long as it does
something. The country is producing more food than it needs. There is
inherent evil in a system that induces men to plow crops under while others
Not only does the food belong to the people but the industrial profit also
belongs to the people. If the employees of General Motors left tomorrow, it
would have to stop. If the entire board of directors died tomorrow, nothing
would stop. What's indispensable are the laborers, not the directors. The
laborers can rise from the ranks and direct their fellow laborers. Because
they are the basic need, they ought to reap the basic benefits. But in
America, about six percent of the people control the basic wealth, and
there's something infinitely demonic about that. It's no wonder that America
needs the largest military in the world to protect the wealthiest superrich
class from people who would rebel against it. There's no basic conflict
among the peoples of the world; Russian bus drivers aren't mad at American
bus drivers. But the controlling groups are always in conflict with the
people-whether it's the Government of the United States, which refuses to
adequately protect the poor, or the boards of directors at GM and Ford,
which encourage blacks to go into debt to buy automobiles but don't allow
blacks to participate in the profitable manufacture and distribution of

PLAYBOY: Can blacks afford to buy automobile agencies?
JACKSON: The companies will lend us the money to buy cars, which leads to
profits for them only. They could lend us the money to buy agencies, but
they won't, because that would let us profit also.

PLAYBOY: Aren't there some black car dealers?
JACKSON: About 14 dealerships out of 28,000. We are grossly underrepresented
in all areas of the economy. There are no black TV stations, for example,
and only seven black radio stations. Most of the stations that are beamed
toward the black community and play black music are white owned. We can't
get FCC outlets, and I'm convinced that there is a conspiracy to keep us
from communicating with one another on a mass scale.

PLAYBOY: Do you mean that the Government fears a nationally directed riot?
JACKSON: I don't know what they think; all I know is we can't get licenses
when we apply.

PLAYBOY: What does Operation Breadbasket intend to do about this sort of
economic underrepresentation?
JACKSON: We have the power, nonviolently, just by controlling our appetites,
to determine the direction of the American economy. If black people in 30
cities said simultaneously, "General Motors, you will not sell cars in the
black community unless you guarantee us a franchise here next year and help
us finance it," GM would have no choice. We can affect their margin of
profit by withdrawing our patronage and resisting the system instead of
enduring it.

PLAYBOY: Can this really work? And, if so, why hasn't it been done already?
JACKSON: It hasn't been done because we weren't sophisticated enough to see
it. This is a step that we haven't been ready to take. But it will certainly
be done now, because we are organizing to do it. Black people purchase about
35 to 40 billion dollars' worth of goods each year. We represent the margin
of profit in many industries. America depends on our cooperation with her
economy, and we shall become the enemies of those businesses and industries
that work against our interest by unfair hiring practices, by discriminating
against black products, by not making investments in the ghetto to
correspond with the profits taken out of it. There is an analogous situation
in politics: The black people have not yet realized that we can determine
who gets elected President; in 1960, it was the South Side of Chicago that
turned in the vote that made John Kennedy President. The newspapers all said
that Mayor Daley had once again come through with his Cook County machine,
but that vote was black. The ghetto, however, has seldom voted in its own
self-interest. It has even voted for black politicians who are contemptuous
of blacks.

PLAYBOY: Why does the ghetto vote so inefficiently?
JACKSON: Because it's so easy to intimidate or con the poor; they have no
recourse. On Election Day, the precinct worker comes around and says that if
you don't vote his way, he'll have you thrown out of the housing project or
he'll have your welfare check canceled. Or, if he's a benign type, he'll buy
your vote with a chicken. The poor are also frightened out of coming to
freedom meetings. But the poor themselves must learn that food is a right
and not a privilege. We are marching to gain a subsidy for 30,000,000 hungry
Americans who represent a human resource that is more important than any of
the mineral resources that this nation subsidizes.

PLAYBOY: What form would that subsidy take?
JACKSON: A guaranteed annual income based upon the Government's own estimate
of the amount of money people actually need to live adequate lives. They say
that a family of four in a large city in the United States in 1969 requires
$5994 per year for minimum maintenance. If that's what's needed, then that's
what they should get.

PLAYBOY: Wouldn't that be expensive, especially considering the present high
tax burden?
JACKSON: The Senate committee on poverty headed by George McGovern stated,
after doing field research throughout the nation, that it would cost ten
billion dollars per year to feed the poor and fulfill their basic health,
clothing and housing needs. I would guess that that's a low estimate. Let's
double it and say that the cost would be 20 billion dollars per year. That's
less money than we're spending to kill the Viet Cong. It's less money than
we're about to spend on the ABM system. It is less than a third of the
defense budget. If we wanted men to live as much as we want to see them die,
we could do it without any new taxes.

PLAYBOY: But what motivation does the Government have to subsidize the poor?
JACKSON: Out of a spirit of humanity, one would hope; but that is naive. Our
job is to create enough pressure to force the Government to act. It is
certainly not going to do so on its own. The imbalance of Southern power in
the Congress has led to important committees being headed by pathological
killers and by men with public commitments to racism. These men-such as
Mendel Rivers, Russell Long, Jamie Whitten and Richard Russell-are the black
man's burden. The truth is that the Mafia is probably better represented in
the Government than blacks are. And numerous other special-interest groups
are well taken care of. The situation on the agriculture committees is
particularly loathsome to me because of the millions of dollars that are
given away to gentleman farmers who don't farm, while children are starving.
Contrast that with the Black Panthers' national breakfast program. They are
serving thousands of people free food every week, and the only qualification
is that the recipient be hungry. If the Panthers can serve breakfast to 3000
children a week in Chicago or 1500 in San Francisco, with their lack of
resources, what could those cities' governments be doing if they had the
same interest?

PLAYBOY: If you were the mayor of a major American city, what would you do?
JACKSON: I would declare the poor communities in a state of emergency and
deal with the unemployment rate, the high mortality rate and the high t.b.
rate. I would set up medicine tents on the streets, and embarrass the
Federal and state governments into opening up their food storehouses. I
would declare war on disease and hunger. I would enlarge all the city
departments that feed and heal people. The welfare of all the people would
be attended to before any new golf courses or monuments or stadiums were
built. I would force the Government to call out the National Guard to deal
with the existing injustices, which make the ghetto a permanent disaster
area. There's no reason why the Army couldn't be coming down the street with
bayonets, looking for slum landlords. The Army would force trade unions to
allow the minority groups in. And those who did not pick up the garbage
would themselves be picked up. An Army like that wouldn't have any trouble
getting volunteer soldiers because it would be engaged in a relevant war.

PLAYBOY: Is that statement a reference to Vietnam?
JACKSON: Let me just say that Vietnam is not a relevant war. It is a war in
which the black poor are paying with their lives to protect the investments
of a small, rich elite whose Asian investments are threatened by Hanoi.

PLAYBOY: Whatever interests are being served in Vietnam, do you think that
you, as a citizen, have the right to pick the wars in which you will fight
and those in which you won't?
JACKSON: Of course I have that right. I must reserve the right to decide
which wars are just. And I would not fight in a war that I thought was
unjust. Nor would I approve of anyone else doing so.

PLAYBOY: Would you encourage drafted blacks to refuse to go to Vietnam, even
if it means jail for them?
JACKSON: Yes. And whites, too. Fighting in Vietnam is a step back into
slavery for blacks, and into barbarism for whites. The road to jail has
often been the road to freedom. Many men-Ghandi, Jomo Kenyatta, Dr. King
-have learned that.

PLAYBOY: Although a disproportionate number of blacks have died in Vietnam,
there have been few blacks active in the peace movement. Why?
JACKSON: To blacks, the peace movement is a luxury that presupposes you have
the time to save somebody aside from yourself. Blacks are just too occupied
with their own survival. They have not even been sophisticated enough to
know that they can oppose murder. A black man can be easily seduced; it's a
revolution for him to go from one meal a day to three. Sometimes I think
that blacks are so locked away from information that we could be duped into
fighting in South Africa for apartheid, if America told us to do it. We
certainly were down there shooting our Dominican brothers. I saw televised
scenes of Dominicans lined up against a wall while black GIs held guns on
them. But this is not because of ignorance but because of cultural
suffocation and improper education.

PLAYBOY: Malcolm X once proposed that the UN send observers into the
American black community to determine if blacks were being treated humanely.
Do you think that's a practical idea?
JACKSON: Only for symbolic purposes; the UN doesn't have any power and is
subject to the American veto.

PLAYBOY: Wouldn't exercising the veto prove so embarrassing to the U. S.
that it would refrain from doing so?
JACKSON: I doubt it. And the countries that one might expect to pressure
America into dealing humanely with its black minority-the countries of
Africa-are themselves too dependent on America's trade and financial aid to
wish to antagonize her. It is not in the enlightened self-interest of those
countries to rise up in indignation when we're shot up in Detroit or Watts,
because we don't affect their essential relationship with the world markets
or the World Bank.

PLAYBOY: Both Malcolm and Dr. King worked to mobilize a world-wide
conscience against racism before they were struck down. Do you share the
view of some that both murders were part of a plan to deprive blacks of
their leader?
JACKSON: Not a single elaborate conspiracy, but it's clear that as we have
moved closer to America's nerve center, closer to a position where we could
vote men out of office, the killings have increased. And I don't think
America has done anything to indicate that she is on the side of Dr. King
rather than of his killers.

PLAYBOY: You used the plural. Don't you think that James Earl Ray acted
JACKSON: I would be surprised if it wasn't a conspiracy involving many

PLAYBOY: Do you have any evidence to support that belief?
JACKSON: I think the circumstances were very suspicious. As you know, I was
with Dr. King when the assassin's bullet was fired. We were talking with
Operation Breadbasket's music director, Bell Branch, about songs for the
next day's rally. Dr. Abernathy, Andy Young, James Bevel and Bernard Lee
were very near. When Dr. King was shot I hit the ground, along with the
others. We scrambled toward the steps where he was and I looked back over my
shoulder, because I was afraid that more shots were going to be fired. I saw
so many police coming from the direction of the shot that I actually threw
up my hands, thinking that the shot had come from one of them and that I was
going to be killed, too. There were hundreds of police in the area, some
jumping from the hill where the shot had came from. I tried to tell them
that the bullet came from that way.
Now, the hotel that Ray was in-if Ray was the killer-is next door to the
fire department. With the shot having been fired and all those police in the
area, the usual thing during an emergency in a Southern town would be for a
siren to go off that stops the lights and traffic on Main Street, where the
hotel is. It was six o'cLock in the afternoon, the busiest time for traffic,
and it all could have been brought to a halt. But no siren went off, traffic
wasn't stopped and Ray escaped through downtown Memphis. The distance he
subsequently traveled indicates to me that he didn't do it by himself and
that he may have had some very highly placed help. But, of course, finding
Dr. King's killers is secondary to getting at the roots of America's violent
atmosphere-an atmosphere in which you conform or are broken, in which you
take your subordinate place in the industrial hierarchy or are destroyed.

PLAYBOY: What do you think Dr. King would be doing if he were alive today?
JACKSON: Dr. King would still be dealing with the problem of finding a job
for everybody; he would still he raising the questions of medical care for
everybody, of a full-employment economy. He would still be on the basic
issues, still be pointing out the stupidity of the war. He would be in
general conflict with Nixon. He would still, as we say, be on the case.

PLAYBOY: Will there ever be another black leader as important as Dr. King?
JACKSON: I don't think so, though, of course, no man can say. But it was Dr.
King who crossed the frontier, who made a permanent break with the past. I
grew up in the period from 1955 to 1965, and that time was dominated by his
courage and strength, as opposed to the previous mass docility of black men.
Dr. King was a surprise for a lot of whites who had conned themselves into
believing that Negroes were really inferior. He was intelligent, moral,
eloquent and courageous. The contrast of his eloquence with the lack of it
in those whites he was forced to deal with gave us a rallying point. Even
more important was the way he stood up to white military power in the South.
Dr. King wasn't afraid of the cop's billy stick, guns or dogs. He overcame
the stigma of jail cells; in fact, he dignified the jail cell and wrote
great words from it. He was willing to die for black people, and finally did
die, not on some lofty mountainside or in the company of ambassadors but
kissing garbage men, trying to set them free.

PLAYBOY: In the weeks before he died, did Dr. King express any particular
optimism or pessimism about the future of the movement?
JACKSON: He expressed both. SCLC was at that time involved in making its
decision about the Poor Peoples' Campaign in Washington, D. C., that
ultimately led to Resurrection City. Many of Dr. King's friends and some
board members said that we should not go to Washington because of the
possibility of a riot. The final decision was his. He was going through a
bad time and he showed it at one of the last staff meetings he would ever
attend. He was despairing that morning and Andy Young tried to tell him to
relax, that things were going to get better. And Dr. King told Andy, "Don't
say 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace. The country is swinging to the
right and our President is obsessed with the war. Maybe I ought to turn
around," he said. But then he stopped; and when he continued, his voice was
more firm. "But we've gone too far to turn around. There were dark days
during the sit-ins, and in Selma and Birmingham. We've come too far."
Then he changed again. "But I'm still disturbed by the division in the
country. Maybe I ought to just fast. And when I get to the point of death,
perhaps we could have a summit meeting of blacks. Maybe that would bring us
together." But then he seemed to resolve the argument in his mind. He said,
"I've seen where we've got to go. We are going to fight the good fight; we
are going to liberate our brothers and raise up the poor. We're not going to
turn around. It's all very clear to me now." And I think Dr. King at that
moment was as sure as he had ever been of the ultimate victory of his
movement. Once you've been to the mountaintop, it doesn't matter if James
Earl Ray is in the bushes waiting for you. 

PLAYBOY: Do you share Dr. King's vision?
JACKSON: In my stronger moments, I have no doubts. I'm even able to love
those who persecute me. There must be some force that's committed to
redemption, even though it's painful. The alternative is that we will
destroy ourselves-"die together as fools," as Dr. King said once. He and
Gandhi and Jesus reached a spiritual state that liberates the self. Dr. King
did not represent ordinary men. That's what made people love him so much.
But what finally happens to the extraordinary men is what happened to Jesus.
We admire them but we don't follow them, and finally we kill them because
they become such a threat to us.

PLAYBOY: In what way?
JACKSON: Most of us cannot live up to the ideal of the noble and virtuous.
Such men make us aware that we must settle for the real and the expedient.
We are diminished by their purity, which is a threat to our self-esteem.
The idealist keeps our consciences awake, but the pressure on our conscience
is so great that it can be relieved only by murder.

PLAYBOY: Dr. King was criticized for placing too much emphasis on
conscience. David Halberstam wrote that Dr. King left Chicago in 1966, for
example, because he could not inspire a moral consciousness, and Mayor Daley
was able to dissipate his campaign with high-sounding but unspecific
resolutions. Do you think that Dr. King was too concerned with the moral
rather than the tactical aspects of the civil rights movement?
JACKSON: No, I think that even as recently as 1966, Dr. King was correctly
analyzing his problem as the need to change the psyche of the black man. You
couldn't impress black folks unless you impressed white folks first. Dr.
King had to make the movement as large as possible in white eyes to get
respect for blacks. I think that we are inclined to lose perspective on how
much things have changed since 1955. There was no black consciousness then.
Dr. King was dealing with "Negroes"-put quotes around that-whose minds,
desires, ambitions and images were white inspired. Aretha Franklin couldn't
have made it in 1955. It was Dr. King who moved the "Negro" farther and
farther out; and the farther he got from that white shore, the blacker he
Dr. King had the most national influence of any black leader, and his
concern was to change national policy. The strategy was always to form a
coalition of conscience between the black community and a segment of the
white community. An issue had to be defined along moral lines, because the
white community will split on the basis of moral against immoral, liberal
against conservative. Without that white help, there is no chance for us to
have an impact on national policies. Dr. King used to point out that there
is not a black college in the country that could remain open six months on
black contributions. That's a reality we must face. Even now, there is no
civil rights organization of any consequence that functions on black money.

PLAYBOY: Does Operation Breadbasket accept white money?
JACKSON: SCLC accepts any money, and it finances us. But we get more black
money out of Chicago than any other civil rights organization has ever
gotten out of the black community.

PLAYBOY: What does SCLC think of white participation in the leadership of
Breadbasket and other programs?
JACKSON: We discourage it. We need and want to encourage the technical and
financial aid of whites in the civil rights movement, but we should make our
own decisions. Whites should spend their physical energy liberating white
America, because white folks need someone to help them understand blacks or
they're going to continue to be paralyzed by their paranoia. Whites suffer
from nightmares and irrational anxiety. When a black family moves onto a
white street, the white girls are not magically impregnated by a black boy.
Those fears are unreal. But whites do not allow enough communication with
blacks to learn the truth. So other white folks must defend our humanity,
even though our skin color is different and our hair grows differently and
we have a different heritage.

PLAYBOY: Why is there a preoccupation now with black studies and Afro
JACKSON: The so-called natural movement is simply trying to say that I may
not know who I am psychologically and historically, but I'm not going to be
defined by white folks any longer. I want to see how I'd look if I just
grew. If I didn't use anything white folks gave me to fancy myself up with,
what would I look like? Most of us have never given ourselves a chance to
find out. We're in search of our existence as a new people-Afro-American.
White people forced us to suppress our beauty; now we want to glorify it.
The fact that our natural selves conflict with the comfortable, stereotyped
white image of the black man is not our problem.

PLAYBOY: But this new emphasis on blackness seems to lead to some
paradoxical situations. In spite of the need for expanded opportunities for
blacks to attend college, a number of strikes were initiated last year by
black college students who demanded black-studies programs at their schools.
Are black-studies programs so important that it's worth closing down a
school to get them?
JACKSON: I think so. History plays a large role in a people's growth. The
white man took away our history because it was one more way for him to
control us. Without a group identity, we had no group loyalty; we were
separated from our past to make it easier to control us in the present. It
is one thing to see ourselves as a people only 300 years old, born as slaves
and moving toward freedom. But, in fact, our forebears date back to the
origin of man, and we have always been a creative and productive people; we
were enslaved, but now we are returning to freedom-and it's good to come
back home. We need the pride and dignity of knowing that we are part of a
great continuum. Anthropologists say that mankind originated in Africa. We
are the people who carved out the great civilizations of Kush, Songhai,
Ghana and Mali. We smelted iron; we mined copper and gold. For us to know
this is to know that we can look forward to a great destiny.

PLAYBOY: It's the idea of exclusively black studies that bothers many white
people. Other ethnic groups don't have special study programs do they?
JACKSON: But they do, and the schools recognize them as such. If you are an
Italian, for instance, your history courses will cover the entire history of
early Rome and then Renaissance Italy, and they will stress the worth of the
Italian contributions. But no ancient-history courses emphasize the
blackness of the great early civilizations. And American history courses
generally ignore the black man. If the schools had done their job, they
wouldn't have the problems they are now confronted with-and richly deserve.

PLAYBOY: Many athletes and entertainers-Bill Cosby, for example-have adopted
Afro hair and clothing styles; but aside from this sort of symbolic
identification, do you think successful blacks have been as involved as they
should be with the movement?
JACKSON: I think the symbolism is important; it shows a new sensitivity. The
black athletes and entertainers who are wearing natural hair styles and Afro
clothes are specifically defying the white measurement apparatus. But the
fact is that the black artist has never been as far away from the black
community as the white press sometimes portrays him. Every black man, for
example, knows where Sammy Davis' heart is. The black entertainer moves into
a white community because the houses are bigger and better there. He is just
taking advantage of a new freedom. Historically, the black athlete and
entertainer have been in a precarious position where, if they over-
identified with the racial situation, they couldn't play in the major night
clubs, couldn't get into a movie or were blackballed from a league. Black
athletes who take a militant position on the race problem endanger their
jobs, even though teams are dependent on their participation. Jackie
Robinson broke into baseball in 1945. In 1969, blacks dominate the game. The
stars of the National Basketball Association are nearly all black, as are
many in the National Football League. But we'd be doing even better in
sports if there were not still some discrimination there.

PLAYBOY: What kind of discrimination?
JACKSON: Before I entered college, I was offered a contract to pitch for the
Chicago White Sox. They wanted to give me less money to sign than the white
boys I was striking out. I'm sure that's generally true, and many black boys
can't afford to leave the farm or the factory to try to make it with a team.
More indicative of the racism still alive in sports is the fact that in all
of major-league baseball, there isn't one black executive or manager.

PLAYBOY: If a black baseball player clearly shows himself to be managerial
material, don't you think he'll get a shot at a manager's job?
JACKSON: What does that mean? Is every white manager "managerial material"?
Then how come they're always being fired? In America, a white man, no matter
how dumb, is expected to boss a black man; but no black man, no matter how
highly qualified, is allowed to give orders to a white man. If a white
ballplayer like Eddie Stanky is argumentative and aggressive, he's
considered fiery. Therefore, he's a managerial prospect. But Jackie Robinson
was fiery as hell, only they called it arrogance. He was an "uppity nigger."
When Robinson left baseball, his accumulated knowledge about running bases,
pitching, hitting and fielding went with him. It was a waste of a great
baseball mind.

PLAYBOY: You seem to be saying that unless a black man is docile, he can't
survive; yet the mood of young blacks-including you-is anything but docile.
Haven't the times changed?
JACKSON: We have changed; I don't know about the times. White society still
tries to impose a different code of behavior on blacks than on whites. What
to me is an expression of confidence is to white folks an expression of
defiance. The country is so used to black people smiling and bowing and
acting unsure of themselves that when whites meet someone who confronts them
and challenges their standards, they make harsh judgments. Now things are
changing so fast that the hostility of white society toward a black man may
lead to respect for him from the black community. For a white man to embrace
you is for a black man to hold you suspect.

PLAYBOY: You have been accused of cynically manipulating that new mood in
your personal choice of dress and hair style. Do you think that if you
didn't wear sideburns and a dashiki, but dressed conservatively and looked
somewhat like a young Martin Luther King, that you could make it as a black
leader today?
JACKSON: Style-whether it's Afro or Ivy League-isn't crucial. Hell, there
are kids around who look like Che Guevara, but they still need their mommas
to help them across the street. Because of all the losses we have suffered,
black people are looking for winners; that's the only way to get their
respect. And a winner is someone who successfully defies white America. The
reason Joe Louis will always be respected in the black community is that at
a time when other blacks couldn't even talk back to white people Joe Louis
was beating them up, knocking them down and making them bleed. When I do a
TV show, I'm aware that every black watching is scoring me against the white
opposition, as if I were in a fight. Every black man who has won the loyalty
of his community has indicated some expression of defiance for the white
man. Malcolm X is a good example. He could look Whitey straight in the eye
and tell him he was lying. And Malcolm showed that even the most brutalized
experience could be overcome.

PLAYBOY: You obviously don't agree with those who felt that Malcolm was a
disruptive force.
JACKSON: Malcolm had become an apostle of peace after his trips to the Near
East. America has a knack for killing her men of peace, while men of war
continue to thrive. MalcoLm's death also pointed up the futility of thinking
in exclusively white-black terms. Blacks killed Malcolm, just as a black man
betrayed Marcus Garvey and a black woman once tried to stab Dr. King. Black
is not always good, just as white is not always bad. We confirmed that
lesson at Resurrection City, where white Appalachians shared the mud with us
while some blacks on U Street were asking The Man to run us out of town. And
it was a black woman who started many of Adam Powell's troubles.

PLAYBOY: The consensus among white liberals is that Adam Powell deserved his
fate-and that he was a hindrance to the civil rights movement. Do you
JACKSON: Absolutely. First of all, and to set the record straight, as head
of the House Education and Labor Committee, Adam Powell was responsible for
passing over 60 pieces of significant social legislation-more  than any
other of his virtuous colleagues have ever done. But Adam is even more
important, for a depressed black psyche, as a defier of white rules.
Something happened to my dad in World War Two that illustrates this. He was
serving in France and Strom Thurmond came to speak to his all-black
regiment. The Senator's message was that they were there to fight the War,
that they were not to bother any women; they were to know their place. In
other words, it was all right for my father to risk his life to serve
America, but lie was still a nigger. So when Adam Powell walked down the
halls of Congress with two white women on his arm, just the outrageous
defiance of it gave us gratification. The appeal of that defiance will never
be lost.

PLAYBOY: That story touches on the strong sexual aspect of racism. Both
Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver have expressed elaborate theories in which
white sexual fears are cited as a fundamental cause of race hatred. Do you
JACKSON: Although sex is a crucial underlying cause of prejudice and racial
hatred, it is not relevant to the black liberation movement. We will not
allow the white man's sexual problem to stand in the way of our freedom.

PLAYBOY: Can you just ignore it?
JACKSON: Let me explain it with some awful history. In the South, when a
slave ran away-thereby expressing his manhood and independence-and he was
caught, the punishment for his first offense was whipping or branding. If he
ran away again, which was the dearest way for him to assert himself, his
punishment was likely to be castration. The slave was told that he was
inferior, less than human and completely unappealing to the white woman; but
The Man still castrated him. That says a lot about the psychosexual dilemma
of the Southern white male. The other part of that dilemma was that because
of his fear of black men, the white man had to desensitize white women. The
white woman had to spiritually kill herself. For a white woman to see Jim
Brown and not think of him as an attractive male means that the nerves are
dead within her being. She dehumanized herself, because white men wanted it
that way. But when the white man destroyed his relationship with his women,
he got his satisfaction from the pursuit of money. So the white man
perverted himself and his women.
If some great psychoanalyst had emerged 300 years ago, he might have solved
some of the white man's problems and prevented the brutalization of blacks
by whites. But we were not rescued, and the intervening 300 years have
served to diminish the importance of sexual antagonisms and replace them
with a more crippling form of racism. Today, racism is integrated into the
ideology of capitalism. I said that the sexual aspect is irrelevant because
even if sexual tensions disappeared tomorrow, capitalism would still require
a racist ideology in order to maintain a cheap labor base. Racism provides a
mechanism by which the slavemaster assures that society will have a ready
supply of inferiors who can serve as slaves. Racism is as important to
America's domestic colonialism as it was to foreign colonialism; it is an
excuse to exploit and enslave a people because they have been defined as
inferior. Colonialism is not built upon emotions; it is built upon behavior
patterns that are designed to get a profit.

PLAYBOY: Do you think, as some revolutionaries do, that capitalism will have
to be destroyed in order to end racism?
JACKSON: It is futile for us to think about ending racism; that is a
psychological problem that seems beyond our attempts to affect it. We are
fighting to end colonialism-oppression and exploitation. That requires
power. The civil rights movement is a lifetime struggle for power. A man who
is impotent, no matter how courteous and pleasant looking he is, is told to
wait in the lobby. But if you have power, you can be an illiterate boor
with tobacco juice running down your face and they will open the door for
you. As I said earlier, we are going to organize to exert power on the big
corporations. We are going to see to it that the resources of the ghetto are
not siphoned off by outside groups. Right now, black exterminating companies
don't even get the contracts to kill the ghetto's rats. But that's going to
change. If a building goes up in the black community, we're going to build
it. And we're going to stop anyone else from building it. If we can't get
into those construction unions, they're not going to get into our

PLAYBOY: But other neighborhoods don't control their business according to
ethnic separation. They try to become part of what is traditionally called
the American melting pot.
JAcKSON: I hear that melting-pot stuff a lot, and all I can say is that we
haven't been melted. We've been getting burned on the bottom of the pot. We
don't want anything that's different from the experience of the other ethnic
groups. If you go into an Irish neighborhood, most of the businesses are run
by Irishmen. The same is true in a Chinese or Jewish or Italian
neighborhood. The difference between all of them and us is that they are
all separate and independent groups, while we are separate and dependent.
We want to control the vital elements of our lives: the school boards, the
churches, the businesses, the police. The other groups are separate and
control themselves, but they are separate and control us as well. That is a
colonial situation. And the slums will exist as long as the colonists
continue to turn a profit on them. As in any other revolution, we must fight
for our independence.

PLAYBOY: But Dr. King once said that his aim was to "break open the city,''
so that ultimately there would be no separate black and white communities.
Have you forsaken that goal?
JACKSON: No. But we recognize that a major part of the black community must
first gravitate around itself, as other ethnic groups have done. In these
areas, where our living together provides collective security, we ought to
have the right to control it. But just as we have the private right to stay
where we choose, we should also have the public right to participate in the
public arena the way other people do. A man should choose where he wants to
live, based on his income, or the fact that a house is close to his job, or
because there's a good school nearby; he should not be refused because of
his color. He should not be afraid of being bombed out by white bigots or of
being harassed by police when he returns from work.

PLAYBOY: Aren't the open-housing laws changing this?
JACKSON: No. There is still segregation. In Chicago, blacks are 30 percent
of the population, but they live on ten percent of the land. That congestion
is inhuman and a prime target for exploitation by slumlords. People are
cramped in body and spirit, and those who can't afford it are paying more
for the space in which they live. We are locked away from the resources of
the community. Black children who are sick are untended and left to play in
their own filth in understaffed, ill-equipped hospitals. Four- and five-
year-olds who were lucky enough to enter Head Start programs substantially
raised their learning capacity, only to have it fall again as soon as they
entered public school. Yet the teachers call the children incompetent. We
have no choice about schools and hospitals, because public mobility is
denied us. When a white mother decides to move because her neighborhood
doesn't serve the needs of her children, the broker asks her where she would
like to live; when a black mother faces that problem, she knows where she
can live-and where she can't. In white communities, there are about 5000
people per square mile; in the ghetto, there are 50,000 people in each
square mile. The overcrowding produces bent and perverted people. They are
made to suffer so much pain that they feel no need to conserve themselves or
their neighborhoods, so they decide to destroy. These are the unheard-until
they riot.

PLAYBOY: The majority of those who have participated in riots are in their
teens or early 20s. Why?
JACKSON: These kids have an awful lot of reasons for hating America. Their
experiences with the dominant culture are nearly all negative; whether it be
in school or a courtroom or applying for a job, they are being either
deprived or discriminated against. This sense of resentment is acute, and
it's just a matter of time before they give up on themselves and this
country. Many of them already have. If Richard Nixon really cared about
America's future, he'd he showing up at Operation Breadbasket meetings and
offering to join us in the fight to reclaim these kids' minds and souls,
because they are going to have a large effect on that future. He might at
least give us equal time and attention with the moon shot.

PLAYBOY: Weren't you impressed by the moon landing as a scientific
JACKSON: The only thing that moon shot did for me was turn my stomach. I was
in a migrant worker's shack in Georgia a few weeks before the launch. It was
about 115 degrees inside in the daytime. It had no toilet-not even an
outhouse. No refrigerator. no running water. There was greasy butcher's
paper over the space where there should have been windows. The shack was
temporary residence for a family of four and they actually paid rent for it.
If they hadn't rented it, they wouldn't have been allowed to work the
harvest. They were all hungry. The kids' bodies were bloated and discolored.
And they suffered from worms. This was good time for these people. When the
harvest ends, they have to move on and they have nowhere to go, That Sunday
night of the moon walk, in my mind's eye, I could see those poor, broken
people walking four miles to the company store to watch the two astronauts
jump around. Each step Armstrong took cost enough money to feed that family
for 100 years.
America has spent 57 billion dollars since 1957 for the ego gratification of
planting her flag on top of everyone else. One tenth of that was spent in
the same period to inadequately feed the hungry. The psychological state of
this nation is revealed by the fact that the men whose egos are swelled by
putting a flag on a dead rock would not feel the slightest sense of
accomplishment from the more humane task of feeding hungry people.

PLAYBOY: Are you encouraged by Nixon's proposals about black capitalism?
JACKSON: Not very much. It is a limited vision to make a few people rich,
whereas SCLC's Poor Peoples' Campaign proposes a decent economic base for
all people. Dr. King died talking about raising the level of dignity for all
men. The difference between Dr. King and Mr. Nixon is the difference between
a prophet and a politician. I don't believe the Government has plans for the
extensive development of the black community. If it did, then the Job Corps
would not have been curtailed recently. Even more serious is the
Government's lack of understanding of the problems of the potential black
businessman and its failure to develop programs to help him.

PLAYBOY: White businessmen object to such demands on the grounds that blacks
don't deserve Government considerations that aren't extended also to whites.
JACKSON: The Government aids white businesses all the time-in the areas in
which they are endangered. It subsidizes airlines and railroads. It sets up
tariffs to protect textile businesses from cheap foreign imports. The black
man is endangered as a businessman because of his substandard education, and
the Government should be offering technical and advisory services to blacks.

PLAYBOY: What kind of services?
JACKSON: There are some basic areas where the black businessman can use
Government help. One is feasibility studies that will tell a man if his idea
is sound. Another, of course, is capital, which should be lent according to
the soundness of a business idea, rather than withheld reflexively in
accordance with impossibly strict notions of what constitutes "a bad risk.''
If a black man came up with the idea for the next generation's Xerox, he
probably couldn't get the money to develop it. Next, the Government should
help him get his foot in the market's door, so that the black man can at
least have a fair chance. This is one area in which Operation Breadbasket
has been very successful; we've gotten chain stores such as Jewel and A&P to
give shelf space to black products. Then the Government should provide real
vocational training. Even if a black kid, who never intends to go to
college, graduates from high school, he can't fix the wiring in the house,
can't run a machine, can't lay a brick.
And the vocational training should apply also to those who are already
running a black business. We helped increase a black man's business from
$12,000 to $160,000 in four months. But he couldn't grow with it. He had to
pull his business back down to the size of his mind; he had to feel the
money, count it in his hands. He couldn't handle a balance sheet, couldn't
write notes for working capital before his receipts came in. That man can't
go to Harvard Business School-but if the Small Business Administration and
President Nixon were serious, there'd be an operation Head Start for the
black entrepreneur. The way it is now, a black with talent has to choose to
work in the security of a big white company. And his sapped spirit will
never produce anything an its own. Black businesses, on tile other hand, are
a step on the road to freedom. Black products are a focus for a pride in
black ability. We can't just consume what the white folks decide to make for
us. Consumption leads to fatness, but production leads to freedom. A
producer is free to make decisions, but a man who only consumes is a
prisoner whose decisions are made by others.

PLAYBOY: Breadbasket's aims, if fulfilled, seem likely to create more
middle-class blacks. Do you think there will be strong class divisions
between black middle and lower classes as the former get farther away from
the ghetto?
JACKSON: I don't think we will have significant class divisions. No matter
how wealthy he gets, the black man can rarely buy a house where he wants to;
he is still subject to the whim of any white policeman who doesn't like his
looks; he is still going to be tried, if accused of a crime, by a jury of
his white nonpeers. And these facts bind him firmly with his destitute

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about the young militants' derisive notion that
every successful black is an Uncle Tom?
JACKSON: I think it's important to be sensitive to who Uncle Tom is. Uncle
Tom is not our enemy. He grew up in the ghetto; he went to bad schools. He's
a successful black hustler who bends and smiles before the white man in
order to provide for his children. He's not a man who sits around thinking
up ways to hurt black people. There's nothing wrong with a Southern boy who
grew up in a shack with an outhouse wanting a real home. The jobs we once
picketed to get are now being derided as Uncle Tom jobs. But the black
bourgeoisie is still very close to the roots, if for no other reason than
the fact that in the colonial system, he can't get too far. Blacks don't
move to white society for joy, fulfillment, good music or tasty meals. They
move to get away from bad schools and apartments where the trash isn't
collected. They aren't moving away from blacks but from the rats.

PLAYBOY: Are you saying that there's no disunity among blacks?
JACKSON: There is an unfortunate division among blacks now that is set off
by a certain self-righteousness, a competition for being the blackest. But
we must never forget that Nat Turner was middle class, as were Frederick
Douglass and Dr. King-and even Stokely Carmichael. We will not be trapped
into glorifying ignorance and poverty. That will not improve the lives of
black people.

PLAYBOY: Do you agree with young radicals who feel that blacks who are
assimilated into the economy will become new cogs in the corporate machine?
JACKSON: We want to create a new value system that will produce a generation
of black liberators, not exploiters. You can't ask a black man not to work
because America's value system is perverted. But I would hope that when the
black man gets a job in a company that is part of the military-industrial
complex, he will organize in a union that is as concerned with basic values
as it is with decent wages. Instead of producing war materiel for an unjust
and immoral war, the union could pressure the company into producing goods
that will help and heal people. The virtuous and vicious aspects of our
economy are interrelated. We produce more food and clothing-and guns--than
we need; we have the capacity to save more people from malice and disease
than any other nation in the history of the world, and to kill more people
than any other nation in the history of the world. No one attacks our
ability to build X-ray machines or washing machines. Our national priorities
are the real problem.

PLAYBOY: Can blacks change them?
JACKSON: This is the challenge of Operation Breadbasket. The businessmen we
help, for example, are discouraged from getting rich and leaving the ghetto.
We develop profit sharing: we try to make it our company as much as the
owner's. We encourage a dialog between owner and employee, and we encourage
participatory democracy.

PLAYBOY: Can Breadbasket help blacks outside the ghetto as well as within
JACKSON: Yes. Let me give you an example of how it can work-a case of real
soul power, where blacks had the integrity to stick out a crisis and aid one
another over thousands of miles. When the most recent Voting Rights Rill was
passed, black Alabama farmers found that they weren't able to find markets
for their products anymore. Whites were retaliating for their new political
power. On top Of that, George Wallace prevented them from borrowing money,
so they couldn't expand economically, because of the combined pressures of
racism and capitalism. There were 1500 of them-all farming small plots.
Instead of quitting, they formed the Southwest Alabama Farmers' Cooperative.
They planted and harvested their crops and then brought them to Chicago. We
at Breadbasket then went to the supermarkets in the ghetto and told the
owners that they would either put the brothers' products on the shelves or
face boycotts. They accepted the produce. The brothers in Alabama could farm
there and have an open outlet in Chicago. We were able to do this out of a
sense of "peoplehood." That's my kind of black nationalism-blacks helping
one another on a national scale.

PLAYBOY: Isn't it one of the great fears of Southern whites that blacks who
outnumber them-will usurp their place in society if they ever win enough
economic and political power?
JACKSON: The problem here is that the poor white and the poor black have
mutual fear. Poor blacks fear that if poor whites aren't eliminated, they
won't be able to eat, and the poor whites feel just the same way in reverse.
The historical difference is that poor whites in the South have controlled
the police and the military and have thereby maintained power over the
blacks. We in the Poor Peoples' Campaign believe that the basic anxiety of
whites is all irrational lear of extermination-a fear that can be removed
with a guaranteed income, with guaranteed medical care and education. Dr.
King was firm in his resolve that black power must be secondary to peoples
power. When the economic base of all the people is raised, racism will
decline. As the Poor Peoples' Campaign gets stronger, racism will lose its
hold on the consciousness of the white poor.

PLAYBOY: Do you honestly think, as Dr. King did, that there's going to be a
movement of the poor that will include whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans,
Mexicans and Indians?
JACKSON: It's inevitable. If our good sense doesn't connect us through
affirmation, then America's greed will lock us together by negation. False
racial pride has divided the lower class, but we must stop defining and
separating ourselves because of skin color. We should define ourselves by
our economic position and shift the fight from a horizontal confrontation of
poor black versus poor white to a confrontation of "have" versus "have not."
Dr. King could have been the suture that connected the various bones of the
bottom classes. Just two weeks before his assassination, there was a meeting
of a dozen representative ethnic groups in SCLC's Atlanta office. That was
the beginning of something really new, and it is continuing. For just one
example, Dr. Abernathy marched with Cesar Chavez and Operation Breadbasket
supports the grape strike as if it were our own project, by boycotting and
picketing Jewel Tea and other stores where California table grapes are sold.

PLAYBOY: But do you really think that the white poor are going to join you?
JACKSON: The white poor have always been distracted from demanding their
rights; they've been too embarrassed to admit their deprivation. They've
nourished themselves on the meager psychic diet of racism. But during the
Illinois Hunger Campaign, we offered poor whites food and they digested it.
In East St. Louis, Illinois, a white man named Hicks addressed a
congregation of hunger marchers. Mr. Hicks has nine children and works five
and six shifts of day labor a week but still can't make enough to feed his
family or even to put a shack over their heads. Mr. Hicks and his family
were taken in by black folks. They shared equally, and it was the first time
in his life, he said, that he felt any sense of security. There are a lot
more Mr. Hickses out there who just haven't realized yet that they don't
have to suffer alone, that a massive cooperative effort by the poor class is
the only answer. United in a class struggle, we can force the redistribution
of wealth in America.

PLAYBOY: The idea of class war, hot or cold, has always been associated with
the theories of socialism. Do you think of yourself as a socialist?
JACKSON: I adhere to the ideals of my religion--that the earth is the Lord's
and its food was intended for all men. The trend of the world today-in
Sweden, Guinea and Britain, for example-is toward some form of democratic
socialism, where men eat because the ground is fertile. America stands in
conflict with that trend by allowing a few people to control and distribute
the food, rather than letting people eat because they are living. The truth,
of course, is that this same America, where socialism is such a dirty word,
is already operating in a sophisticated state of socialism for the rich,
while the poor live in a crude state of classic capitalism.

PLAYBOY: Please explain that.
JACKSON: The people in this society who follow the Protestant ethic and work
long hours by the sweat of their brow are the poor. They work at the hardest
jobs and often still don't get enough money to pass the poverty level. Even
when they try to break out, it's an attempt to start a street-corner
business, where the rules of classic capitalism prevail. The poor
storekeeper, for example, doesn't control his market through advertising; he
can't float a bond issue and use other people's money to run his business.
But the rich man has socialism. We've got 6536 farmers in this country who
receive $25,000 not to work. That's socialism. The campuses expand, chopping
pieces of land out of black neighborhoods, with the financial help of the
National Education Act. Even wealthy schools for rich men's sons are state
supported. The interstate highway program, none of which benefits those who
can't afford a car, is 90 percent Federally financed. There wouldn't be a
trucking industry without Government help. The list is endless and includes
the oil companies and their depletion allowance, the railroads, the airlines
and airports, the power companies. The rich talk about tax shelters and
tariff protections, while the poor talk about sweat and blood.

PLAYBOY: But isn't welfare a form of socialism for the poor?
JACKSON: As it now stands, welfare is a form of humiliation. It is demeaning
and dehumanizing. Men use money; welfare recipients use stamps. Men have
privacy; welfare recipients have no privacy and can be visited any time of
day or night. Their most intimate relationships can be called into question
by people who are indifferent to them. Instead of abusing the poor, this
nation has to understand that the welfare recipient is a product of the
success of our economy. The unskilled black man whose job has been lost to
technology today will be joined shortly by the unskilled white man whose job
will be lost to the next technological advance. Either we see these men as
having been freed by technology, perhaps to fulfill a creative role, or we
see these men as having worked hard only to find themselves enslaved in
poverty by the same technology. Whichever perspective one has, we must
evolve a subsidy that will preserve these precious human lives, not destroy
them as welfare has.

PLAYBOY: Were you encouraged by President Nixon's new welfare proposals?
JACKSON: I was thoroughly discouraged. I watched Nixon the night he
delivered that welfare address. My anger was tempered only by my incredulity
at the immensity of his con job. He lied for nearly an hour and didn't even
crack a smile. He asked the country to think of him as a great humanitarian,
but we weren't fooled. Behind all those promises is the single fact that the
states are going to retain control of most of the Nixon program. When the
states had the power, black people couldn't vote, couldn't ride in the front
of a bus, couldn't drink from any public water fountain, couldn't use any
john they wanted. Now Nixon says to Thurmond and Stennis, "Take care of them
poor folks." Right this minute, there are 10 states violating the welfare
laws. We don't need a redistribution of welfare-disbursement stations in
this country, we need a redistribution of wealth. The President challenged
the poor to go to work, without saying what he would do to improve the lot
of those who can't work. I'll be encouraged when the President challenges
the rich to show their humanity and grant to the poor their basic rights as
human beings.

PLAYBOY: The white lower middle class is becoming quite vocal about its
opposition to welfare in any form for those they characterize as too lazy to
work. What's your reaction?
JACKSON: The fact is that the poor work the hardest and have always done so.
We made cotton king, cooked other people's food when we had none of our own,
stooped to clean bathrooms. Now we are unskilled, because the schools don't
teach us, because less money is spent on the education of blacks than is
spent on whites. A state of despair has set in for those in the black
community who have been told no too often, and perhaps they can never be
healed. When white people say they know a man on welfare who is too lazy to
work, I say that may be so. But the man they see is a dried-up prune.
I ask them, "Did you see that man when he was a boy? Did you see him when he
said, 'Momma, do you have a piece of bread?' Did you see him before hope was
snuffed out by despair?" The white middle class is paying less tax money to
support welfare mothers than it is to support the farm industry. I don't
hear them complaining about that. The bulk of their tax money goes to
subsidizing the rich and fighting wars abroad-wars fought by the sons of
welfare mothers, not by the middle-class kids who go to college. The middle
class invests in America with its tax dollars, but the poor have to invest
their lives.

PLAYBOY: Is it possible to raise a family on the funds provided by welfare?
Many claim it isn't.
JACKSON: Let me put it this way. If I give you 22 cents for a meal, you know
pretty well what you're going to get to eat. I thought I knew what poverty
was all about until I went on our hunger campaign. I saw children eating
red clay. Doctors call it pica when people who don't get sufficient food eat
things that have the appearance of food. I saw a mother give her child
saltines and onions for breakfast and send her off to school on that. I saw
a white mother with four kids, one of whom, a boy, had leukemia. He drank
all the milk the family was allotted on a food-stamp supplement, and it
wasn't enough even for him. She took him everywhere in a little wagon, the
kind kills play with. He was frail and helpless, and the mother was
exhausted; the entire family looked bloodless and frightened, as if they
would never have a moment's joy. I can understand why they might feel that
way, living as they must with the fact that there is a ceiling on the
welfare allotment but no ceiling on the rent or the food prices or the
amount of tragedy a family can suffer. The insufficient welfare funds are
especially damaging to babies. Eighty percent of the brain develops during
the three months immediately before birth and the first three years of life.
The minds of welfare children, who cannot get enough to eat, are stricken

PLAYBOY: Why don't welfare allowances provide adequate support?
JACKSON: Welfare allotments tend to be about one third of the minimal
standard of living as defined by the Government. In Texas, New York and
California this year, even that meager appropriation was cut. Furthermore,
rents and food prices are higher in poor areas than in middle-class areas,
so the poor must spend more, even though they have less. The result of this
deprivation is that the black child goes to school without breakfast, cannot
afford lunch at school and cannot look forward to a decent supper at night.
His hunger is such a distraction that he is not motivated to learn. All of
these elements combine to place him farther and farther behind in school. He
has no goals, no hero images, no sense of purpose or identity. He is
physically weaker than his white contemporaries and probably sickly, because
he doesn't get medical care.

PLAYBOY: Earlier, you referred to the dominance of professional sports by
black athletes. That doesn't fit with the image of physical weakness you
just presented.
JACKSON: Some men will thrive even in a prison camp, so it isn't surprising
that you'll find an occasional black youth who overcomes his poverty. But
the important reason for the dominance of black athletes is that a high
proportion of black men, both those who ate well and those who didn't,
directed themselves toward athletics because the field was more open to them
than any other. More blacks tried to be boxers because there was no point in
trying to be a bookkeeper or a mathematician. A black man whose mind might
have had great aptitude for math wouldn't have been trained by a ghetto
school. It made more sense for him to try to be a ballplayer, even a third-
rate one, because it was so unlikely that he'd have a fair chance to be
anything else.

PLAYBOY: A persistent part of the white stereotype of the black man is that
he runs faster and jumps higher than whites. But some anthropologists have
claimed recently that there actually are genetic differences between white
and black. Will this new evidence worsen the relationship between white and
JACKSON: It won't affect us. The black man has never needed to believe that
there are differences; that's a white man's problem. Our natures are the
same. Our urges and drives as people are the same. Mankind has one father,
and that's time. It has one mother, and that's nature. Both of these life
processes are sound and consistent and universal. The third process is
brotherhood, which is all messed up, because white folks have tried to
withdraw from it. The eternal existential dilemmas of fate and death, guilt
and condemnation, emptiness and meaninglessness are the same for all men.
But our relationship, based upon distorted information peddled by white
folks who reject the humanity of others, has been perverted.

PLAYBOY: What are the psychological and cultural differences between white
and black, if any?
JACKSON: Slavery is our cultural heritage and it should have been a
thoroughly destructive one. But instead of seeing ourselves as slaves from
Africa brought over to serve the lusts and wants of white people, a
providential way of seeing our slavery is that we are missionaries sent from
Africa by God to save the human race. Who else is in a position so close to
the Pentagon, the greatest threat to the world's existence? Who else is in a
position to literally redirect the most powerful economy on earth? Who else
in the world is in the enemy's kitchen and his schoolroom? We are, perhaps,
the only ethnic group in the world that has the power to redirect the
destiny of white America. Neither China nor Russia nor France nor England
could do it. I don't look for white folks to give me any direction. My
experience has taught me that white people are spiritually impotent, by and
large, because all they've really produced is a lot of goods and services
and a lot of death.

PLAYBOY: That's a sweeping condemnation. Would you say that the late Norman
Thomas, to name one of many men, was spiritually impotent?
JACKSON: No, he was certainly a spiritual man, and you could find others.
The point is that such a man is not representative of the white American
culture. In fact, the secondary roles that genuinely humane white people are
forced to play is indicative of what I'm trying to say. Black society
chooses to be led my its prophets, white society by its hustlers. The men of
highest sensibility in white society find themselves rebelling from it
-just as blacks must rebel. America is known not for her capacity to love
and heal but far her capacity to organize and kill. America has an
aristocratic military definition of man. American men judge themselves by
their wealth, status and power, not by their intelligence, compassion or
creativity. That's why the idea of looking for racial equality here is a
farce. To become equal to white folks would be to become part of the
greatest tradition of killing in the history of the world.

PLAYBOY: That might sound to some not only like a blatant overstatement but
like a proclamation of black supremacy.
JACKSON: I don't know what it sounds like, but I know what the record will
indicate. There is no evidence of Africa invading Europe, of her early
advanced civilizations killing or enslaving other nations. Historically,
blacks have not been the aggressors in war, not even here in America. We did
not mobilize to go to war for our long-overdue justice, but there have been
wars of injustice waged against us. The profound men in this culture have
been black-Frederick Douglass, for example, who was more pertinent than
Lincoln on the subject of slavery and the liberation of mankind. And the
crusader for justice in Mississippi was Medgar Evers, not Jim Eastland.
In New York, Malcolm was pertinent, not Nelson Rockefeller, who did not bat
an eye when he approved the welfare cuts. The one who cried out for peace in
the world and meant it was not the white leader, President Johnson; it was
the black leader, Dr. King. During the past 15 years, Dr. Abernathy has been
more relevant than any American President. Blacks have striven for moral
dignity and, by contrast with America's state of immorality, we appear to be
moral supremacists, not black supremacists.

PLAYBOY: The war in Biafra seems every bit as brutal as any other war. Black
life there seems to he as cheap to blacks as you say it is to whites in this
JACKSON: The Nigerians and Biafrans are fighting with white men's weapons.
They are fighting a war that is based on a white man's division of Africa,
and the cause of the division was an earlier economic colonialism. The war
is an unfortunate aberration and the signs of white meddling are everywhere
in it.

PLAYBOY: During the 1968 teachers' strike in New York City, there was
evidence of deep-rooted black hostility toward Jews. Is anti-Semitism
consistent with your claim of black moral supremacy?
JACKSON: In the first place, there were really few examples of black
anti-Semitism, and these examples were blown out of all proportion by the
teachers' union, which benefited by the dissemination of fear. More
significantly, though, I don't think you can characterize blacks as
anti-Semites. We have never been obsessed with the Jew as Christ killer. But
our relationship with the Jew has changed as the black movement has changed.
When blacks began to confront the Southern white power structure, most of
which was WASP Baptist and Methodist, Jews gave us great support, both
financial and moral, and a real kinship developed. But once the movement
moved North and the problem was defined not just in terms of social
segregation but in terms of economic colonialism, the Jew began to be
revealed as landlord and shopowner. Of course, he is more conspicuous than
the Protestant, because his name is likely to identify his ethnic
background. And he is also more sensitive: It is much easier to embarrass
or humiliate a Jew than either a Protestant or a Catholic, because, unlike
the others, the Jew immediately identifies with suffering.
As blacks have emerged, the Jew has been there as teacher and shopkeeper,
and there has been an inevitable friction. But I think the mood of the
blacks is more one of anti-colonialism than of anti-Semitism. For blacks
cannot afford to be anti-people; no matter who the people are, they must be
anti-evil. I think the Jews who are most concerned about anti-Semitism,
however, should keep in mind that blacks have not exploited Jews at all. We
have not owned anything in the Jewish community-no clothing stores, banks,
food stores. The Jewish community, like most others, has a left and a right
wing-some who operate in a tradition of justice and others who violate that
tradition. Rather than develop a persecution complex, perhaps it ought to
expend some of the energy it spends complaining about black anti-Semitism on
the Jewish merchants who are known to be exploiters and tend to pull the
reputation of the Jewish community down.

PLAYBOY: Jews, along with Irish, Italians and other immigrant groups, are
often held up as an example that the blacks, if they were industrious
enough, could emulate. The premise is that those groups were poor and lived
in ghettos but were able to overcome that experience and join the American
mainstream. Why hasn't that happened to blacks?
JACKSON: First, those groups came here voluntarily and were always free. We
came here involuntarily and are still not wholly free. The other immigrant
groups are white and could lose their identity and merge with the majority
when it was necessary; with a few technical skills or a decent education, it
was a simple matter for them to bypass prejudice. Their families were not
destroyed and their sense of historical continuity was preserved. Most
importantly, they did not suffer the tremendous color stigma of the white
Historically, there was a conspiracy to hold us down. We were enslaved, then
locked into plantations, as we are now locked into ghettos. When America
finally released our physical bonds in 1865, it was as if we had been in
jail for 200 years and were let out without a road map or a dime to go to
the city. There was no attempt to help us overcome the psychological or
economic hardships of slavery. Many blacks didn't survive; and of those who
did, most had to pervert their natures-become invisible men, as Ralph
Ellison wrote, become hidden, for it was too dangerous to assert one's real
identity, one's manhood. No other ethnic group was faced by a hostile white
society that wanted to castrate it both physically and psychologically.

PLAYBOY: Then today's black militance is a quest to resurrect that manhood.
JACKSON: One thing that I have to say right off is that there's nothing to
be learned from the white man's idea of manhood. An American man is
identified by his weapon, by what he controls. American men are obsessed;
they are gratified by making money they can't even spend, which is a kind of
emptiness of the soul. Real manhood should be defined by the ability to help
and to heal, by an extension of the mind, by knowledge exerting its power
over ignorance. Real manhood comes from helping others be free, by breaking
the bonds of slavery.

PLAYBOY: Do you mean that metaphorically?
JACKSON: Only partly. Many of us have internalized slavery and behave like
slaves, responding to the slavemaster when he calls. In some communities, we
must fight our own people because they maintain the slave institutions. They
are still in awe of Pharaoh and are afraid to confront him. That is a form
of slavery. The slave psychology works on a subtle level that warps the
black mind. It has been drummed into blacks that whites are the creators and
producers and thinkers. Blacks whom we might have respected were taken from
us. George Washington Carver's image is one of a docile creature-an old man
in a laboratory, bowing to a white child. The fact is that he developed over
900 elements from the peanut and almost singlehandedly revived the Southern
economy. A black man, Daniel Hale Williams, was the first open-heart
surgeon. There are many, many other examples, but the point is that blacks
never knew about them. It was easy to preserve the image of the dull-witted
slow-talking and -thinking black bumbler. There is still a need among blacks
for white validation of their efforts. If Tommie Smith and John Carlos had a
race tomorrow and both broke their records for the 220-meter dash, and the
race were held on a black campus, where all the judges were black, black
people wouldn't believe it-and neither would whites. But if it were a white
track meet, there'd be no problem. As for our churches, they gave up their
soul-and I mean that in both senses-to copy white church styles. That's why
at Operation Breadbasket meetings, which are deeply based in religion, we
have a band and a Gospel choir and consciously try to capture the rhythm of
our people.

PLAYBOY: Is the slave psychology the reason for your own fieriness and
emotionalism when you address a black congregation?
JACKSON: Certainly. I am seeking converts-not necessarily to religion,
although there's that, too. But I want to make my people realize their own
self-hood. I begin each service with a chant that says, "I am somebody." It
also says, "I may be poor and I may be an welfare, but I am somebody."
Because black people have to learn that they have rights just because
they're alive. They're got to stop putting themselves down because of an
induced inferiority complex. The slave psychology was apparent when Dr. King
came out against the Vietnam war. He had all the credentials you could ask
for: Nobel Prize winner, and international leader, a scholar and a Ph.D. But
blacks said he had a lot of audacity; he's a preacher and should confine
himself to civil rights. But when Robert Kennedy and Senator McGovern took
the same position, then it was all right. And after Memphis when SCLC's
James Bevel expressed Dr. King's contempt for capital punishment, he was
scorned by the black community. He said Dr. King would have wanted James
Earl Ray rehabilitated, would have said to fight hatred but spare the hater.
Bevel also pointed out the irony of trying to obtain justice by sacrificing
a two-bit waiter for a billion-dollar black prophet. But blacks said he was
crazy. Then Ted Kennedy said that Sirhan's life should be spared because his
brother Robert was against capital punishment. The black community
immediately cited Teddy as a great man of justice who didn't become
vindictive in the face of personal tragedy. This is a painful indication of
our self-contempt. We must stop looking to whites to validate our worth; we
must look within for beauty and strength and courage.

PLAYBOY: Your own self-confidence, as contrasted with Dr. King's humility,
seems to be of formidable dimensions, and you've been accused of messianic
impulses. Do you see yourself as the next great national black leader?
JACKSON: First of all, Dr. King was not humble: he was forthright and
audacious. He was killed for challenging white power. As for me, I am
confident of my abilities as a social analyst, but I have no illusions of
grandeur. My job is to proclaim liberty, to preach unity, to bind up broken
hearts. I am just taking care of my assignment. Besides, anyone in public
life in this violent society who would make such long-range plans is a fool.

PLAYBOY: You certainly expose yourself to the risk of assassination as much
as any man. Do you think that you may he subconsciously seeking martyrdom?
JACKSON: I want to live. I've got no hang-up with that. But a man must be
willing to die for justice. Death is an inescapable reality, and men die
daily, but good deeds live forever. An assassin believes that you can kill
the dream by killing the dreamer; that is an error.

PLAYBOY: Would you have any special message to leave with black people if
you were killed?
JACKSON: Yes. Don't send Flowers. Don't come around with your tears. Picket.
Go to P.T.A. meetings. Fight for higher wages. If I die tonight and you wake
up tomorrow, make the most of it.

PLAYBOY: You've been quite sick a few times this year, once with a form of
anemia, and also with some very debilitating viruses. Yet you hardly let up
on your activities, rarely sleep and constantly drive yourself toward
exhaustion. Why?
JACKSON: Because I have a sense of urgency about what has to be done. It is
not the thought of death so much as it is the crying need for justice.
Perhaps both facts motivate me simultaneously. I do feel that I have to
fulfill my work in an appointed time. I would like to sleep, but ideas come
to me in the night and wake me. I think I'm drawing my stamina from a
spiritual source that has been allotted lo me: for that reason, I have no
choice but to keep on driving. You can't devote the energy necessary to
confront Pharaoh unless you are spiritually consumed by the need for
liberation. But that is social consciousness, not a messianic need to be
worshiped. There are some aspects of glory attached to having the privilege
to lead, but none of the agony ever gets publicity, because television
cameras don't record people tossing and turning in their beds at night.

PLAYBOY: Inasmuch as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is
basically a religious group, it's understandable that religion plays a large
role in your life. But what appeal can the church have for a cynical 20-year
-old kill from the ghetto?
JACKSON: The black church is relevant because it has provided a home for our
rebellion. It has cherished our people. The white church, on the other hand,
worships worship, not Christ nor love nor brotherhood. God is very sick
here; the God of justice and liberty is almost nonexistent. Christianity is
universal, but the American flag flies higher than the cross in American
churches; and when wartime comes, universal love goes out the window. If
Americans had a true God consciousness, they could not leave the church on
Sunday and shield their eyes from the hungry.
Butt there is extraordinary relevance in the actual teaching of Christ. If
you love people you will not destroy them in war; if you love deeply, you
will distribute the goods of the earth that the Father provided, so that
people will be fed and housed. That is the Jesus I identify with. His was a
program for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving company to the

PLAYBOY: In the past, some critics have regarded Christianity as an
impediment to black liberation; blacks were supposed to have been content to
get their reward in heaven. Did you consciously evolve this activist
approach to Christianity?
JACKSON: My religious philosophy can be summed up in an old Southern story
about two farmers. One farmer was most concerned about his duty to God. He
attended church every day and worked his fields in the afternoon. His
neighbor never attended church and never paid any attention to religious
rituals. The first farmer was just eking out a living; the second farmer was
getting twice the harvest from a lot the same size. Finally, the first
farmer said to the second, "Brother, I don't understand. I've been working
this land and doing my duty for God and asking His help. I go to church each
day. Yet I can't get ahead at all. You never take care of your religious
obligations, yet you're getting all the bounty. What am I doing wrong?" The
second farmer answered, "I don't know what you're talking to God all the
time for. He doesn't know anything about farming. This place didn't produce
anything when He had it all to Himself." That's the whole thing. God made it
but man has to go out and do it.

PLAYBOY: In our interview with Dr. King four years ago, he said the aims of
SCLC were removing the barriers of segregation, disseminating the creative
philosophy of nonviolence and total integration of the Negro into American
life. How much have things changed since then?
JACKSON: Four years ago, SCLC was a Southern movement primarily concerned
with social segregation. Blacks were defined as less than human and were not
allowed to participate in public. We were "boys" and our goal was to be
recognized as men. That drive was aimed at creating a moral consciousness,
and one of our slogans was "Save the soul of America." I think that one of
the reasons for impatience among blacks today, and the reason for the appeal
of violence, is that we never before knew just how awful the secrets locked
in America's soul really were. We didn't know then that America would bomb a
people to pieces and side with the oppressors in order to preserve her
financial investments. We didn't know then that the Northern liberal had
better manners than Bull Conner but that his institutions were no less
thoroughly racist. And we didn't know then that the capitalists who
slandered us with cries of "Communist" were living high off the Government
hog while we were starving in the streets.
This education of ours has led to a change of mood. Our first concern now is
not white America's soul; it is black America's body. We are justified in
our impatience, because that body is hungry. When Moses had his illumination
and realized that he could confront Pharaoh, the Bible says that Moses had
to take his shoes off, because now he was on holy ground and the bushes were
burning. Actually, the bushes were not burning; Moses was burning. His eyes
were aflame-the skin had come off them. Black people today are burning; the
skin is off their eyes. The movement is now in a resistance phase and we
will no longer cooperate with the white slavemaster. Either we are going to
live or America is going to die. The ghetto experience has not been a
satisfying or a useful one, but it has given us inner resources-the ability
to do much with very little.
I read in the white press how black people are dispirited and confused.
White editorial writers claim that the civil rights movement is fragmented,
That is not true; the movement is very together: The NAACP, which just saved
the Voting Rights Rill, is doing its thing in Southern courts; the Urban
League is doing its thing in industry; the Panthers are feeding kids in the
streets: SCLC just had a political victory in Greene County, Alabama;
Operation Breadbasket is thriving. It is white America that is at the
crossroads. If she does not join us in the resurrection of her soul, in the
fulfillment of her dream for all her people, then I foresee a day when
little children in a schoolroom on the moon read in the history books about
an empire that crumbled because all her power and might of arms could not
cure the immoral greed that diseased her spirit.


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