Economics, History as Important as Race, President's Critics Say

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton was praised for taking on the subject of racism in a major address Saturday, but he was met with warnings to take a long look at history and economics.

"I really do applaud the president for trying to do what he's doing," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. "But unless we are able to look at this whole race issue from an economic standpoint, I think we are going to continue to have problems with race in this country."

White people who are not economically successful are likely to blame blacks, and African Americans feel they been left out of the economic system, Cummings said. "Those things are more apt to happen when you don't couple a discussion of race with economics," Cummings said. Actor James Earl Jones agreed that economics is crucial. "Racism would not exist if it didn't benefit somebody. It's all tied together. It's measured in the wallet," Jones said. An honest, careful look at history is also important in dealing with racism, said former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who said Clinton gave an "outstanding speech." "We could all start, particularly white Americans, with the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws in the South and the history of this nation's treatment of the very people alluded to by President Clinton," said Kemp. "It would end some of the ignorance and the intolerance that still exists in our society." Sam Husseini, spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that while Clinton has a good grasp of the complexities of racism, the president's policies are contradictory and examples in his speech were offensive. …

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