'Black right' responds to Reagan approach
Conservative blacks may have found their collective voice in the wake of President-elect Ronald Reagan's victory last Nov. 4. A gathering last weekend in San Francisco illustrated that there are articulate spokesmen in the American black community for approaches like those Mr. Reagan advocates for solving the problems of the nation's minorities.Skip to next paragraph
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At a conference organized by the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a think tank founded in 1972 by Reagan associates, the topics of discussion were not surprising: lowering the minimum wage for unemployed youth, reducing environmental regulations, abandoning rnt controls and government attempts to integrate schools, reexamining affirmative action "quotas," and free market economic policies.
What some observers found extraordinary, however, was that these typically conservative views were being strongly advocated by blacks, and not all of them Republicans.
Two top Reagan officials -- staff chief Edwin Meese II and domestic affairs adviser Martin Anderson -- gave clear signs of the direction the new administration will take in addressing the needs of US blacks. But more significant was the response from a group of prominent blacks who may emerge as the new advocates of US minorities in these days of growing conservative strength.
"The left-liberal axis no longer has a monopoly on effective policy for black needs . . . if it ever did," declared Harvard political scientist Martin Kilson.
"I think that liberal programs have kept blacks in bondage," asserted Clarence Pendleton, president of the San Diego Urban League.
Oscar Wright, a Los Angeles community organizer and opponent of court-ordered school busing, said: "No one yet has convinced me of the benefits of forced integration."
Most of the blacks who were at the meeting are not well known nationally. But they may increasingly be heard from as the Reagan team takes charge in Washington. They included Temple University economist Walter Williams; Washington lawyer Maria Johnson; Oakland, Calif., attorney and publisher Thomas Berkeley; University of Massachusetts geophyicist Randolph Bromery; California Economic Development Commission member Dan Smith; and Columbia University government Prof. Charles Hamilton.
Prominent among the conference's organizers and participants was Thomas Sowell Sr., fellow at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution and a man expected by many to be a member (if not chairman) of Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.
"We need to look, not at the noble preambles of legislation, but at the results of legislation," he asserted. "Polls show that most blacks have never favored forced busing, oppose quotas, favor a [school] voucher system, and want more law and order."
Since Mr. Reagan received only 14 percent of the black vote Nov. 4, it is obvious that not all blacks share these views. But the gathering of several hundred here, organizers have, was indicative that a large number of blacks believe that economiv recovery implemented through classic Republican theories in the long run is what blacks need most.
Such well-known liberal black leaders as Vernon Jordan, Jesse Jackson, and Andrew Young pointedly were not invited. "We are making a statement as much in whom we invited as in whom we did not invite," said Institute for Contemporary Studies executive director A. Lawrence chickering.
Underscoring the point that the voices heard here will be the ones most closely listened to in the Reagan White House were the presence of senior Reagan advisers Meese and Anderson.
"Last week we met with people who purported to be black leaders," Meese told the group. "They were talking about the ideas of the past 10 years. You're talking about the ideas of the next 10 years."
He promised that "there willbe a patern of listening, conferring, and two-way dialogue" between the President-elect and minorities.