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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Rejecting the popular view that 1960s activists abandoned social justice issues

Although 1980s popular culture attempted to point out the contradictions among 1960s activists, Cusick argues that he is more committed to social justice causes. Huge economic stratifications, rising drug culture, and increasingly conservative executive and judicial branches of government present new issues of social justice. Cusick discusses his continued social justice efforts later in the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAT CUSICK:
I guess the one thing I would like to add, if anything, after twenty-five years—and I definitely want to say this because it was in vogue several years ago to trot out people who were active in the '60s and are now stockbrokers and stuff. In fact, I got a call from the Durham Morning Herald, maybe ten years ago, and they were interviewing me over the phone, and they were really trying to make that be the outcome. I mean, they had a preconception.
PAMELA DEAN:
You had joined the establishment somehow?
PAT CUSICK:
Yes. "What are you doing now? Oh, you are?" But if anything, I think that the twenty-five years since then, I've just become even more committed, and that's why I'm so excited about the whole Jackson movement especially around here in this neighborhood. This neighborhood is very much the "haves and the have-nots." One-third of the people make under $10,000 a year, 52% are low income. Yet the median income is $28,000. So that means, of course, there's no middle. There's great affluence and great poverty. And the gap between black and white, demographically, or rather, statistically, in terms of all the indicators—income and education, numbers in graduate school—it's widening. Not only is it not shrinking, it's not even remaining constant. And I think it's very frightening. Then you put drugs and stuff and all and…
PAMELA DEAN:
And we've certainly had, at least in the last eight years, a federal administration which seemed to be doing everything in its power to widen the gap.
PAT CUSICK:
Oh, there's no doubt.
PAMELA DEAN:
That was their specific intent [unclear]
PAT CUSICK:
They set the tone, and now they have the court, and God knows where, how long that's going to be with us.
PAMELA DEAN:
What do you think of these latest court rulings rolling back civil rights?
PAT CUSICK:
I'm not surprised, and I think that will continue. I don't think they'll roll back Roe v. Wade, but I think they will roll it back somewhat, and they'll toss more on the states. But all of this in itself sets—aside from the legalities of it and the pain—it sets the tone, you know, it sets the tone. And when you have a tone that's set… Recently in this neighborhood we were in a big—we're always in big fights here—but we were in a big fight against some of the landed gentry, white, who were opposing the expansion of a drug treatment center at Boston City Hospital which is nearby. A representative of the mayor got up and said, "If we don't expand, some of the addicts are going to die." And one man stood up and said, "Let them die. They don't own property." He said this at a public hearing, and I thought when you can say that with impunity, because maybe fifteen years ago he would have believed the same thing but the tone was such you would not, at least, stand up and say that. So it's frightening. And I don't think Bush is any better than Reagan. He's just a little more stylish, not quite as hokey in speeches.