'We've simply become much too violent,' says Jesse Jackson at Edinburgh book festival

This article is from 2015

Jesse Jackson at the Edinburgh book festival

credit: Alan McCredie

Immigration and gun laws on the cards at the activist's appearance at EIBF

Jesse Jackson, the American civil rights activist and Baptist Minister, dropped by the capital at the weekend to pick up his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, and appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, to discuss a life of campaigning against prejudice with chair Ruth Wishart.

Jackson began by talking about immigration; an issue that is currently prominent on both sides of the Atlantic and creating real divides within society. He claimed the challenge is to 'learn how to live together', advocating acceptance of migrants, not hostility towards them.

Wishart swiftly moved the discussion to an issue that undoubtedly most of the audience were keen to hear his opinions on: the current racial tensions in the USA highlighted by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson last year. Rather than criticise the police form, Jackson instead focused on gun laws, stating: 'We've simply become much too violent. We make the most guns and we shoot them.' While gun ownership is declining overall, nearly a third of American households still have a firearm.

Nearly 30 years after his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Jackson's passion for and commitment to eradicating discrimination is evidently still vibrant, and his words remain inspiring. Despite Wishart attempting to wrap things up sharply so he could head off to get his honorary degree, he insisted on staying to answer a few more questions from the audience. His final point, in answer to a query about black activists running for the Republican Party, affirmed his desire for true equality, emphasising the importance of allowing black citizens to 'vote for ideas' and not skin colour.

Jackson left, deservedly, to a standing ovation from the crowd.

Jesse Jackson appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 22 Aug. Watch the event on BBC iPlayer until 19 Sep.