LOS ANGELES, JULY 12 -- Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said tonight that his election was not an aberration, and he predicted the election of a black president in the "not too distant" future.
Wilder, the first African American elected governor of a state, made his prediction upon accepting the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the civil rights group's highest award.
The NAACP ended its five-day conference in Los Angeles mired in a controversy over claims that blacks have fared poorly in the entertainment industry because it is largely controlled by Jews.
The controversy originated when several members on a panel discussion about blacks in the entertainment industry complained about what they described as Jewish control of the business.
One panelist, LeGrand Clegg, chairman of a Hollywood watchdog group and attorney for the city of Compton, Calif., urged black leaders to address the "issue of the century-old problem of Jewish racism in Hollywood."
Rabbi Gary Greenbaum, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Committee, told reporters: "To characterize the entertainment industry as controlled by Jews is an inaccurate and dangerous stereotype. Attacks of this kind do nothing to solve problems."
At a news conference today, NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks and board Chairman William Gibson said they would meet with the heads of major Jewish organizations to discuss the issue.
But Hooks maintained, "We do have a position that there has been racism in Hollywood. ... Who caused it are the folks who run it. And who runs it, we have known. We know white folks ran it. Now, if you all want to separate that into Italian Americans or Jewish Americans or Greek Americans, they're all white folks, as far as we're concerned, and we have to sit down and reason together as brothers and sisters."
In his speech, Wilder backed his prediction of a black president with the examples of not only his victory, but also the recent election of black mayors in cities where blacks do not predominate.
"These and other achievements are not 'aberrations,' as some have suggested," Wilder told about 3,000 NAACP delegates. "Rather, they reflect genuine progress, they are beacons of hope and promise for tomorrow, and for the generation which will be called upon to build on what we have achieved in our lifetimes.
"And yet, despite all evidence to the contrary, today we still hear the naysayers proclaim with supreme confidence: 'No, never at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.' But you and I know otherwise. The American people know otherwise. And, on the not-too-distant horizon, destiny shall prove otherwise."
On another matter, Wilder criticized President Bush's proposals to assist the new democracies in Eastern Europe while providing what he called inadequate support for domestic programs to help the needy.
"While we clearly have a responsibility to help other nations of the world -- especially in the defense of basic human liberty -- we also have an equally important obligation to help our own people attain and maintain basic human dignity," Wilder said.
Like many convention speakers, Wilder challenged blacks to accept a greater role in improving their plight. But he reserved his strongest language for the nation's political leaders in Washington.
"For the last decade, we have put off a litany of domestic needs which boggles the mind: providing quality education for all of our children; fighting homelessness and the scourge of drugs; and finding cures for cancer and other killer diseases. In Washington, the list is without end; the solutions apparently without beginning."