Magazine article Insight on the News

Jackson Uses the Race Card at the Expense of American Ideals

Magazine article Insight on the News

Jackson Uses the Race Card at the Expense of American Ideals

Article excerpt

The cameras no longer are rolling in Decatur, Ill. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, defender of what he called the "Decatur Seven" has left the scene. Unlike the parents of children whose school no longer may have a zero-tolerance policy toward violence, he will not have to live with the consequences of his demands and ultimatums.

Forget that school officials have been sharply criticized for not taking preemptive measures at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and other schools involved in recent youth violence. Never mind that school administrations throughout the nation have been brought to court for failing to anticipate violence, and that it is totally understandable that the Decatur school board dealt swiftly and strongly with the perpetrators of a violent altercation that endangered hundreds of people at a football game.

Jackson -- whose own children attended St. Alban's, an exclusive private school in Washington with a zero-tolerance policy for violence -- sloughed off concerns about Decatur's school security with the comment, "This is not Littleton" as though violent acts now were the sole purview of suburban schools.

But the death toll from violence in our nation's inner cities dwarfs the casualties of that Columbine High School tragedy. Today, homicide is the leading cause of death for blacks between the ages of 15 and 24. One out of every 21 black men can expect to be murdered, a death rate double that of U.S. servicemen in World War II. A heightened sensitivity to youth violence should not be an exclusively suburban phenomenon. Given these realities, it is lethal to provide our young people with an exemption from personal responsibility.

Even more troubling is the fact that Jackson's theatrics exemplify an abuse of the rich legacy of the civil-rights movement. The civil-rights leaders mobilized the resistance to segregation around powerful figures that epitomized the quest for social justice. Rosa Parks was a seamstress, respected by the community, who refused to yield her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The Little Rock Nine were children seeking a better education. These figures provided powerful visual images of the moral case being made to America as to why discrimination must end. But Jackson demands that six youths who were engaged in mob violence at a football game evoke the same response as Parks and the Little Rock Nine. …

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