Blacks Criticize Jackson's Activism

Article excerpt

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and his supporters have no business in a school discipline dispute in Decatur, Ill., because it is a local issue that has nothing to do with race, several black groups said yesterday.

Mr. Jackson's activism on behalf of six black students expelled for a Sept. 17 brawl at a high school football game is an act of shameless self-promotion that has only heightened racial tensions and sent the wrong message to black youth about violence, they said.

"Jesse Jackson is abusing the Decatur community, the black community and the white community by drawing racial lines in the sand and forcing people to take sides," said Niger Innis, a spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality in New York.

"There are two winners here: Jesse Jackson for the media coverage and attention he gets, and the local KKK. Everybody else loses, including those kids," Mr. Innis said. "As long as young black males are not given guidance and discipline by individuals and black male role models like Jesse Jackson, then the black community is not going to be able to truly maximize the great advances this country has made in terms of race relations." Mr. Innis' group and other black organizations leveled harsh criticism on Mr. Jackson for muscling his way into the dispute over a school brawl, which continues to divide the small town of Decatur.

Since Mr. Jackson and members of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition arrived three weeks ago, classes have been interrupted, and parents and politicians have taken sides, polarizing a peaceful town.

The fracas also drew the attention of the Ku Klux Klan, which arrived from Indiana to rebuke white residents for letting Mr. Jackson control the debate.

Mr. Jackson and his supporters should bear the blame for fanning racial flames, said Michael King, a black conservative and Atlanta Internet developer. …