Rev. Jackson calls on BP to help Black fishermen in Gulf

NEW YORK (NNPA)—After returning from a recent trip from the Gulf Coast region, Rev. Jesse Jackson called on British Petro­leum to do more to help Black fishermen affected by the enormous oil spill currently consuming the region, during an address to the Black newspaper publishers June 18.


“So long as British Petroleum is in charge of the information flow about damages done and in control of who is able to be a claimant, they control both bookends of the situation,” Jackson said during a speech at the National Newspaper Publishers Association‘s annual convention in New York.

Jackson said as long as Americans are dependent on BP for information, they will also control who will be claimants for the damages. That process must be economically as well as racially inclusive, Jackson said.

“The White House announced last week that President Obama has brokered a $20 billion deal with the oil giant to set up a claimant fund to cover residents and workers in the area. Jackson said that for BP the money is the “cost of doing business … That’s $20 billion for five states over five years, which is $4 billion a year. Yet they make $32 billion a year,” Jackson said.

The civil rights leader said there is dire need to address and close the disparities that remain between Blacks and Whites.

“What we used to call segregation we now call disparities,” he said. “The face of segregation has changed but its infrastructure has not changed. Now, instead of legal segregation there is health care, economic, access, ownership and educational segregation. Ten percent of the population owns 85 percent of the land and 65 percent of the income,” Jackson said. He called it “vertical segregation.”

“Fifty years ago we were jailed because we did not have freedom of horizontal access to each other,” Jackson said. “We could not sit side-by-side [with White people] at the library, work side-by-side to each to sell clothes on Main Street, we could not use public parks, sit in a hospital or die and be buried in a graveyard side-by-side. Fifty years ago we marched to tear down those walls ending horizontal segregation. Fifty years later the walls are down between us and we are now able to celebrate side-by-side. A wall no longer separates us but a ford does. We’re no longer in horizontal segregation, we are now in a vertical segregation.”

Jackson also based his observations on recent history.

While Wall Street was being bailed out by billions of dollars in no-interest subsidies, African-Americans endured the largest loss of wealth in American history over the last two years because of predatory lending practices and the meltdown that ensued from the subprime mortgage crisis. Reverend Jackson said that the post-civil rights struggle is a battle for equality.

“I’m going to break some news to you— our goal was never freedom,” Jackson said. “Freedom was the prerequisite to get the equality. You can’t get equal unless you get free but if you get free and stop right there than you would be free but unequal. Free and ignorant. Free and broke. Free and homeless. Freedom was not our goal. It was a precondition for equality. Freedom is taking the chains off but equality is catching up. We are in the catching up stage.”

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