Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the outgoing president of the North Carolina NAACP and is the convener of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Peoples Assembly Coalition. He’s also mobilized the Forward Together Moral Monday movement – in which people of all ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses and races protest the General Assembly.
Barber appeared on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on Comedy Central Monday to talk about this movement and about how it ties in with religion.
“Every progressive movement, every progressive idea that has taken root in this country and around the world had a deep moral underpinning” Barber said. “Whether it was the abolition movement, whether it was the civil rights movement, whether it was Theodore Roosevelt 100 years ago saying that we needed universal healthcare as a moral issue, whether it was the New Deal, whether it was women’s suffrage, always there was a revival of our moral center, and our moral core that challenged both parties.”
Barber said it’s nearly impossible to be religious without also being an advocate for the oppressed, particularly in this past presidential election.
“When you go through an entire presidential election and you talk about tweets, emails and texts more than you talk about poverty, systemic racism and the war economy and national morality from the perspective of justice… we need a revival of values in this country,” he said. “Otherwise, we will continue to see the likes of Trump and others get elected.”
Barber and Noah also discussed the US Supreme Court decision Monday that NC lawmakers relied too heavily on race when drawing the legislative districts for the state. The decision upheld a lower court’s ruling.
Barber said systems like racial gerrymandering hurt everyone, but particularly the poor.
“It was racism—racial gerrymandering and racist voter suppression that set up the congress we have now, the state legislatures now,” he said. “And you know what? The people who got hurt the most by the policies that have been elected by these so-called, what I call unconstitutionally constituted legislatures have been poor whites.”
Barber said the conversation almost always comes back to the poor, and if North Carolina is going to help those in need, the conversation and language surrounding being poor needs to change.
“Boehner – remember when he said that poor people had an idea that they didn’t have to work?” he said. “Or Paul Ryan suggesting that poor people are on some kind of glorified vacation? The language is too puny and we need a movement that can re-shift the moral conversation in this country.”
Barber will step down from his position as the president of the NC NAACP this month to head the Poor People’s Campaign – a movement originally organized by Martin Luther King Junior.
Photo via The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Comedy Central.