Charlottesville: A Defining Moment in America, A Conversation with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.

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On September 8, 2017, UCI hosted the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. as part of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker’s Series, the new UCI Confronting Extremism Initiative, and the School of Law’s colloquium series “Hate in a Period of Political Turmoil.”

“Charlottesville: A Defining Moment in America” features a conversation with Rev. Jackson, led by UCI Chancellor’s Professor of Law, Michele Goodwin.  In the wake of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, Rev. Jackson addresses the rise of hate in the U.S., including hate crimes and the mainstreaming of hate groups.  Additional guests include Dr. Rabbi Hillel Cohn and T. Mychael Rambo.

Based in the Office of Inclusive Excellence, Confronting Extremism is a campus-wide initiative that seeks to harness our university’s mission of teaching, research, and public service to address issues in society and to fortify the UCI community.  The initiative has three priority areas:

  • Confronting the denial of our common humanity
  • Confronting the denial of science
  • Broadening critical inquiry through course experiences

Confronting Extremism aligns with the UC Regents’ “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.”  In this statement, the Regents reaffirm the University of California’s long-standing view that “acts of hatred and other intolerant conduct, as well as acts of discrimination that demean our differences, are antithetical to the values of the University and serve to undermine its purpose.”  The Regents also recognize that “freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry are paramount” and that the “University will vigorously defend the principles of the First Amendment.”

About the Speakers

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures.  Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice.  In August 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Rev. Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Michele Goodwin is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UCI.  She is founder and director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy and its internationally acclaimed Reproductive Justice Initiative.  She serves on the Executive Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, is an elected member of the American Law Institute, and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.  Professor Goodwin researches and teaches on questions that relate to constitutional law, health, and human rights.  Her publications include five books and over 80 articles and book chapters.

Dr. Rabbi Hillel Cohn is founding chairperson of the City of San Bernardino Human Relations Commission and board member of The Community Foundation of Riverside and San Bernardino, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, and The Brightest Star.

T. Mychael Rambo is an actor and vocalist and residency artist/educator and affiliate professor/recruitment coordinator at the University of Minnesota in the School of Theatre Arts and Dance. He has been featured in several of August Wilson’s plays to wide acclaim, on HBO, and national, regional, and local theatre.

Discussion Questions

“Charlottesville: A Defining Moment in America; A Conversation with Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.”

The purpose of Confronting Extremism is to advance the campus commitment to inclusive excellence.  In this conversation, the Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks on the events of Charlottesville and, more generally, the rise of hate in America today.

  • In conversation with Professor Goodwin, Rev. Jackson suggests Charlottesville was “a defining moment in America,” much like Selma and Birmingham, Alabama. What examples are given to illustrate this point?
  • According to Rev. Jackson, “America is the best that it has ever been.” How does he reconcile this statement with the events of Charlottesville and, more generally, the rise of hate today?
  • In Rev. Jackson’s view, how do voting and civil rights and the rights of women and members of LGBTQ+ communities intersect?

In this conversation, Rev. Jackson and Rabbi Cohn suggest strategies for countering extremism in our time.

  • How do Rev. Jackson and Rabbi Cohn view silence in the face of hate? For example, Rev. Jackson says, “Sometimes, silence is betrayal.  Sometimes, silence is consent.”  What is the significance of this view today?
  • How does this conversation align with UCI’s commitment to an inclusive climate for all students, staff, and faculty?

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