Menu JTA Search

Coretta Scott King Statement on Black-jewish Relations

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made a statement today on the status of Black-Jewish relations in America, excerpts of which follow:

“Because Blacks and Jews share a common heritage as two of the most oppressed minorities in the history of humankind, any viable coalition for social progress in America must include both of these groups if it is to be successful.

“I cannot agree with those who have suggested that strong Jewish support of the civil rights movement led by my husband was based mostly on self-interest. It is true that it is in the self-interest of minorities to join together to insure their survival but Jewish support of Black Americans in their struggle for equality has always transcended the dictates of political expediency. From the earliest days of the civil rights movement to the present day, Blacks have counted on the support of the Jewish community A number of my husband’s closest allies, some of whom have dedicated an entire lifetime to the movement for racial equality, were Jews. . . . There can be no doubt that this commitment was based on fundamental human decency and not simple self-interest.

DETERIORATION OF RELATIONS NOTED

“In recent years, however, many observers have noted a deterioration of Black-Jewish relation Large Islamic populations in many African countries and growing numbers of Black Americans who have joined the Islamic faith has prompted some increase in identification with the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. Others saw a fundamental conflict of interest emerge in the Bakke case and the question of affirmative action in general . . . .

“Finally, the recent furor over Andrew Young’s resignation from his post at the United Nations is seen by many as cause for a serious split between Blacks and Jews. The responsible Black leadership has always stood fast for the right of Israelis to a homeland and peace with security and will continue to do so. I have faith that the responsible Jewish leaders will continue to support the struggle of Blacks for racial justice.

“But there is another, larger issue at stake. It is a universal principle that applies to all political conflict — between the people of Northern Ireland and the British, the struggle in Southern Africa as well as to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. It is the principle of open communication that is essential for nonviolent reconciliation . . . . We, who deeply believe in the nonviolent method can never condone a policy of non-communication with political opponents. There can be no hope of peace without a willingness to talk.

“I know that I am not alone in this belief. It was recently reported that a number of prominent American Jews like Philip Klutznick, Nahum Goldmann, George Gruen and Herman Edelsberg met with PLO representatives as early as 1976.

“For many years I have worked closely with Jewish groups on common issues like full employment and discrimination. I am deeply committed to the world-wide struggle of Jews and all people for humor rights I have served as honorary chairperson of the Women’s Plea for Soviet Jewry in Atlanta because believe, as my husband said, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.’ It is my sincerest hope that Black and Jewish Americans will continue to respect each other’s right to formulate independent policies even as we join together in our mutual quest for social decency and justice.”

NEXT STORY