Urban League: it's time to organize to see that black needs are met
Boston — After six months in office President Reagan has yet to convince black Americans that the budget and program cuts he advocates will help them, says Vernon E. Jordan, president of the National Urban League.
He is "disappointed" with the recipe for economic recovery offered to blacks by administration officials at the recent National Urban League conference in Washington, D.C., he says.
"I asked the administration to tell us what poor people and black people are supposed to do until prosperity returns," Mr. Jordan says. "We did not get an answer. I think the administration missed the opportunity we offered.
"We could have engaged in the kind of dialogue that results in democratic consultation and adjustment."
This feeling, which pervaded the Urban League's recent annual conference, was echoed earlier at summer conventions of two other major civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Denver and Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in Chicago.
Most of all, Jordan points out, the administration did not express full support for extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 "as is." Anything less than "extension of the act as it now stands is unacceptable," he adds.
Two documents, one on black enterprise and the other on affirmative action, detailed the league's other key priorities, employment and black business.
In defending the administration's economic game plan, Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan has maintained, "Our tax reductions will not hurt black Americans. Our economic program has substance. It attacks the causes of economic discrimination which hinders the advancement of all Americans. It calls for pain and sacrifice from every American. We must carry through with our program, hard though it may be. We have no choice."
Dialogue between black leaders and the administration will continue and will produce positive results in spite of "our differences," Jordan says.
He also talked about the future of the league's social service programs (91 percent of its $35 million "Special Projects Budget" is funded by federal grants), growing restlessness among blacks, and blacks in the administration.
To meet the Reagan challenge, he suggested, "We black people must get back to the basic business of organizing our communities to defend our interests and our needs.
although the National Urban League will march in the AFL-CIO "Solidarity Day" demonstration Sept. 19 in Washington, Jordan does not foresee confrontations 1960's style, nor does he expect "violence in the streets" in the nation's cities.
Jordan is not without praise for Mr. Reagan.
"We applaud him for bringing black Americans into his administration, although we fell he has not done enough.
"President Reagan has been forthright and frank in presenting his position to black people, but offered us no surprises," Jordan adds. "He owes us no political debts. We did not vote for him. But as President he is responsible to all citizens. He cannot ignore or exclude us.
"He has made good statements against crime and terrorism. Personally, he is a good man. But his policy worries me."
Despite the budget cuts, Jordan says, "The Urban Leagues's survival is not at stake because we stand to lose government funds. At stake is what happens to the services we provide the nation's poor. If the criteria for our performance is delivery of services, our projects will be renewed."
Unlike the NAACP, the National Urban League and Operation PUSH utilize public sector funds to initiate and continue programs they advocate -- social services for the league and education and youth projects for Operation PUSH.
League affiliates also receive additional federal and state monies for local programs. For example, league affiliates operated 308 CETA (Comprehensive Education and Training Act) programs with funding of more than $55 million during 1980, in addition to CETA activities run by the national office.
"We are looking to sources other than government -- private enterprise and foundations -- for future support." Jordan notes.
Targeted social programs and affirmative action have helped blacks advance up the economic ladder from all levels of the economy, say two league reports, "Economic Policies and Black Progress: Myths and Realities," by Robert B. Hill, director of research, and "Affirmative Action 1981," by Maudine R. Cooper, vice-president for Washington operations.
Both affirmative action and economic programs create new jobs for young blacks, bogged down by high unemployment, high dropout rates, and low achievement on tests, the reports indicate. More services are delivered to the poor and underprivileged through target programs than through block grants, Dr. Hill says of federal economic projects.
The President has set up a "social safety net" as a safeguard to protect the needy, unemployed, and poor. Secretary Donovan, who spoke at the league's conference this year, says that CETA's "major components" -- work incentive, basic training and employment, youth training and jobs, and the private sector initiative program -- will be preserved.
"Many people believe we are placing too much emphasis on economics in America ," Secretary Donovan said. "They say we should be concerned with social and political freedom. But without economic freedom we can have no other freedom."