Civil Rights Proponent Says Gaps Still Exist

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Americans have a fundamental obligation to bridge the "economic apartheid" separating the haves from the have-nots, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said during an interview on campus yesterday.

Jackson said increasing access to technology for underrepresented minorities is the fourth stage in the ongoing struggle for civil rights.

"The first stage is to end slavery, the second is to overcome the legal apartheid of segregation, the third stage is the right to vote and the fourth struggle is to improve access to technology," he said. "You could conceivably be out of slavery, out of legalized segregation, have the right to vote and still starve to death."

He added that, with the exception of one building in downtown Chicago, no skyscraper in any American city is owned by a black or Latino.

"We are clearly as shut out of (owning buildings) as we are in any of the other stages for civil rights," he said. "You need to access capital and technology before you can enter this process. We don't own a single building, but since we can socialize in them and we're no longer humiliated in them, we've learned to call them 'our skyline' and 'our roof.'"

Even black mayors lack the financial power to truly control the city, he said.

"The legacy of being locked out of the finance culture is to be without ownership," he said. "The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles may be black, but without owning a single building downtown, you're just managing someone else's city."

Jackson contrasted hiring on sports teams with the racial stratification in the business community.

"How do African-Americans and Hispanics do so well on the football team and the basketball court?" he asked. "Whenever the playing field is even, the rules are public and the goals are clear, we can go to the next level. We had no idea how good baseball could be if everyone could play."

Jackson used the example of East Palo Alto - a poor, largely minority community in the heart of Silicon Valley - as a community in dire need of aid from local businesses. He said when his Rainbow-PUSH coalition tried to set up offices in the city, they were told the phone company could not install more than one line.

"On the other side of the highway - not the country - there exists a classic apartheid: white versus black, the haves versus the have-nots," he said. "On one side, you have the ocean (in Palo Alto), you have the ocean of technological genius and unparalleled growth. But there's this island, parched and scorched, in the middle of this ocean. This is irrational, but it's real."

Jackson was the keynote speaker of the e-Health symposium, held yesterday at the Haas School of Business.

Audience members said before the speech that Jackson's magnetic personality and strongly articulated views caught their attention.

"I really want to hear what he has to say," said senior Traci Rupp, one of three business majors chosen to attend Jackson's speech. "It's an opportunity to hear a dynamic speaker who has good views on political and social issues."

Cheryl Johnson, who works in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said Jackson's intent to address the digital divide directly relates to her interest in people without access to health care.

"I hope to hear different ideas of how we, as a society, can use technology to better the world," she said. "The Internet is growing - we need to use it to better the lives of the have-nots."


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