Amid cheering supporters, sneering critics and concerned crowds of more than 500 students, the Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed the issues of affirmative action and the campaign in Afghanistan at the Michigan League Friday.
“If we can be as one in terror we can be as one in education,” Jackson said, explaining that unity on the battlefield must be followed by unity in the classroom.
“If this new wave of patriotism means anything, it means an America of inclusion,” he said. “When the crisis came in our pain we became as one. We cannot make it state by state and race by race we must make it as family.”
Jackson emphasized that, given the opportunity, anyone can become a hero or leader.
“If George Bush can do a good job, all of America can do a good job,” said Jackson, who explained he did not intend to detract from Bush”s handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war.
Several dozen people attended the event to protest Jackson himself. They held signs bearing slogans such as, “We Support Child Support,” “Content of Character not Color of Skin” and “Affirmative Action Racist Sham.”
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, which sponsored Jackson”s visit, needs a new “icon,” said LSA senior Peter Apel, chairman of Young Americans for Freedom. “Affirmative Action propagates the problem it”s inherently discriminatory.”
The show of protest stirred up anger from Jackson supporters. Prior to the rally, heated arguments arose between students over the need for affirmative action and the mission of BAMN.
Many unconvinced students had come to the rally to hear Jackson”s and the protesters” opinions.
“I find it healthy that both sides get to voice their opinion,” said LSA junior Orion Bylsma. “This sort of thing is an opening for dialogue.”
“I am ambivalent right now and I”m hoping this will show me some more of the story,” said LSA freshman Max Berry.
Speaking before Jackson was Shanta Driver from BAMN, which has been gathering supporters to rally in Cincinnati tomorrow, the original date of the next phase of the lawsuits against the University”s use of affirmative action in admissions.
The court date has been moved to Dec. 6 to accommodate a panel of nine judges.
“We cannot be a country that includes so many people but leaves our best universities only open to those who are white, who are men, who are privileged,” said Driver. “To have real multiculturalism, we must have integration.”
“Our goal in Cincinnati is to maximize the amount of support and pressure that we can put on those judges so that they can make the right decision,” said LSA junior Agnes Aleobua.