At the Democratic Party Convention: Jackson Appeals for Reconciliation; Asks Forgiveness for Remarks

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in a speech to the Democratic National convention last night in which he pledged to support the Democratic Party’s expected ticket of former Vice President Walter Mondale for President and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New Yor for Vice President, made a stong appeal for reconciliation with those who he had offended during his campaign, including the Jewish community.

“We must turn from finger pointing to clasped hands,” he said of Jews and Blacks. “We must share our burdens and our joys with each other once again. We must turn to each other and not on each other and choose the higher ground.”

In his appeal for reconciliation, Jackson also said: “If in my low moments, in word, deed or attitude, through error of temper, taste or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain or revived someone’s fear, that was not my truest self. If there were occasions when my grape turned into a raisin and my joy bell lost its resonance, please forgive me. Charge it to my head and not my heart.” (See related story on Jewish reactions.)

At the same time, Jackson made it clear that he was sticking by the issues he raised in the campaign, including that of United States policy in the Middle East. “Our present formula for peace in the Middle East is inadequate and will not work. There are 22 nations in the Middle East and we must be able to talk, act, influence and reconcile all of them. He added that “we have too many interests (in the Mideast) and too few friends.”

CHANGE IN WORDING ON QUOTAS IN PLATFORM PLANK

Jackson spoke after the convention adopted his change to the affirmative action section of the party’s platform eliminating a clause rejecting quotas. The change, adopted by a voice vote, was apparently the result of an agreement between Jackson and Mondale. Jackson’s three other proposals, including the elimination of second primaries, were rejected by polling.

There seemed to be some question whether last night’s action puts the Democratic Party in favor of quotas. The sentence in question now says that the Democratic Party” reaffirms its longstanding commitment to the eradication of discrimination in all aspects of American life through the use of affirmative action goals, timetables and other verifiable measures to overturn historic patterns and historic burdens of discrimination in hiring, training, promotions, contract procurement, education and administration of all federal programs.”

Two Black spokespersons for the change definitely said that “verifiable measures” meansquotas. One noted that “If Jewish Americans have a special appreciation for the relationship between the Holocaust and the need for a secure State of Israel then why not respect the deep understanding of Black Americans for the need for verifiable measures such as quotas in pursuing affirmative action.”

Delores Tucker, vice chairperson of the convention’s Black Caucus, said that verifiable measures do mean quotas. But Reps. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland denied this.

Mikulski, national co-chairperson of the Mondale campaign, said that in the view of Mondale and Ferroro “verifiable measures does not mean quotas.” This will apparently be the argument that Mondale will make to those, particularly in the Jewish community, who strongly oppose quotas.

NOTES CONTRIBUTIONS OF BLACKS AND JEWS

Jackson’s appeal for reconciliation with the Jewish community came as he noted the progress made for Blacks since the 1964 Democratic convention in Atlantic City. “Twenty years ago, tears well up in our eyes as the bodies of Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney, were dredged from the depths of a river in Mississippi,” he said referring to three slain civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, 24, and James Goodman, 20, of New York, both Jewish and James Chaney, 21, a Black of Mississippi. The three were shot to death where they and other volunteers were working to register Blacks to vote. Later, seven white men were convicted of the crime.

“Twenty years later, our communities, Black and Jewish, are in anguish, anger and pain,” Jackson said. “Feelings have been hurt on both sides. There is a crisis in communications…. but we cannot afford to lose our way. We may agree to agree, or agree to disagree on issues, but we must bring back civility to the tensions.”

CITES ‘SHARED PASSION’

Jackson noted that “many Blacks and Jews have a shared passion for social justice at home and peace abroad. We must seek a revival of the spirit, inspired by a new vision of new possibilities.” He said Jews and Blacks are “bound by Moses and Jesus, but also connected with Islam and Mohammed. These three great religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — were all born in the revered and holy city of Jerusalem.

“We are bound by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, crying out from their graves for us to reach common ground. We are bound by shared blood and shared sacrifices. We are much too intelligent much too bound by our Judeo-Christian heritage; much too victimized by racism, sexism, militarism and anti-Semitism; much too threatened as historical seapegoats to go on divided one from another.”

However, Jackson added that the “old coalition” must be expanded to include others such as Arab Americans. “They too know the pain and hurt of racial and religious rejection,” he said. “They must not continue to be made pariahs.”

Jackson was introduced by several persons representing the various groups in his Rainbow Coalition. The first was John Zogby, national field representative of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Another was a Jews, Suzanne Ross, who said she was born in Europe during the Holocaust and stressed her concern for Israel as well as the Palestinians.

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