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A city that works

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Harold Washington has struck the right chord by calling for a healing of animosities in Chicago following the bitter mayoral race. If he does indeed follow through on his pledge to ''reach out my hand in friendship to every living soul in this city,'' he will help build a Chicago more united socially and stronger politically than ever before. The opportunity is his to grasp.

Chicago can be proud of itself. Yes, it was a nasty, divisive campaign marked by personal and racial slurs. But, when one considers the political sea change which the election of a black leader would represent in the nation's dominant Midwestern city - and some of the mud-slinging political races in past American history - it is perhaps cause for comment that the campaign was no worse than it was.

We say proud because the electoral process has worked. Blacks registered in unprecedented numbers in order to help elect one of their own, showing that they are a growing political force to be reckoned with on the national as well as local scene. Yet Mr. Washington could not have been elected without the support of whites, including the liberal Jewish community, Hispanics, Irish-Americans, and others.

It can be regretted that so many traditionally Democratic white citizens voted on the basis of race. Their ballot opposition to candidate Washington no doubt sprang from fear of what a black leadership would do in and to their ethnic communities. Dispelling their apprehensions and winning their confidence must now be a major priority at city hall.


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