Rev. William Barber on impact COVID-19 reopening may have on impoverished communities

Barber, who leads a movement seeking justice for the poor, speaks to “Nightline” about how disparities in minority communities have been highlighted with this crisis and what needs to be done.
4:07 | 05/22/20

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Transcript for Rev. William Barber on impact COVID-19 reopening may have on impoverished communities
Holmes county, Mississippi is considered one of the most impoverished counties in the state. I was on the ground last year with Dr. William barber, part of a movement dedicated to seeking justice for the poor. He's not afraid to use his bully pulpit to affect change. I spoke with him about how the pandemic has affected the poorest of the poor. Reverend barber, thank you so much for joining us. I see you with your mask on, that tells us how seriously you take. Pandemic. Your perspective, are the states reopening too soon? They're opening too soon at the expense of poor and low-income working people and the expense of the American people. This false choice that you have to either open up or go to work and possibly die is a choice. It didn't have to be this way. The issue is to open up properly. And properly means we would make sure people have health care, make sure we have testing, make sure we did the tracking. Make sure we have the ppes that are necessary. Make sure people have the kind of protections for rent forgiveness and maintain their water, but we've not done any of that. As one worker said, it feels like we're being led to what is called policy mass murder, because we're being forced to go into work for our livelihood, when we should not have to do that. We're in a situation right now for people who live hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, there is a stark choice between do I go back to work right now to feed my family or wait this out. How do you accomplish both those things? I think we have to stand up and fight. And that's what people are saying now. We may have to go to work to but we're aalso going to we demand an agenda that cares for poor and low-working payment. If we have to die, we're not going to die quietly. We're going to raise our voices. If we're in the process of using our last breath, we're going to breathe love and justice into this American ex-peerment. Reverend, those demands have been on the table long before either one of us was born. There's traditionally been an issue of health care accessibility in areas with high poverty. I live in a rural area. Part of the problem is, for too long we've had too many people in power too comfortable with other people's desperation and other people's death. We have not provided what is necessary for working class people, for poor and low-income low wage workers. We call them essential workers as a title. But many of them feel more like expendable, like Clara Kincaid who died in a meat packer in How does America come out of this crisis better, you think? What will we learn that will be improved upon you think? I'm a hopeful person. I know too much about the evils of society. I look at history. Many times in the darkest moments, in the toughest moments, people have come together, and people have risen up. I have my, my faith actually begins in the graveyard, with there's always a resurrection. People are dying, people are hurting, but over this country I'm seeing all over that people are also standing up. I would say to America, I would say very clearly to America, that if America can't get it right in a pandemic that's threatening all of our mortality, if we can't get it right in the midst of a pandemic that has shown us that one little germ can shut down the whole country and shut down the world, if we can't get it right and build this economy from the bottom up and care forepeople from the bottom shame on us. I question our leadership. If we can't get it right now, when are we going to get it right? In fact we better get it right because all of our lives literally depend on it. I think we just heard a sermon. Thank you for joining us. Bless you, my friend.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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