Black GOP and Reagan: applause mixed with criticism

Black Republicans are leaving the nation's capital this weekend with a feeling of ''being wanted and appreciated by our party,'' smiled LeGree Daniels of Harrisburg, Pa., chairman of the National Black Republican Council.

She was beaming because President Reagan had highlighted the council's three-day 1982 midterm convention with a rousing commitment to seek solutions to black issues and to support black GOP candidates for Congress.

The President made four promises to black people:

* To aid minority business enterprise. ''Later this month,'' said Mr. Reagan, ''I will announce a program which will promote minority business development.'' He said the program would include a plan to increase federal procurement of goods and services from minority firms during fiscal years 1983-85. An administration-sponsored conference of major American industrial leaders with minority entrepreneurs was also promised.

* To assure a strong Republican stand for civil rights. ''There is no room in the Republican Party for bigots,'' declared the President. He affirmed that his administration has been ''firm in protecting'' civil liberties and in supporting such laws as the Voting Rights Act.

* To strengthen black colleges. Reagan termed this a ''firm commitment'' of his administration.

* To pursue the enterprise zone concept as a means of upgrading the nation's inner cities. The President again endorsed this program, emphasizing its potential for creating new jobs and bringing private enterprise back to the city.

Reagan also delivered some strong criticism of past federal efforts to help US blacks. Antipoverty programs such as model cities and various other urban renewal measures created ''a new kind of bondage for American citizens,'' President Reagan said. He argued than many of the programs begun during the Great Society push of the mid-1960s fostered ''a state of dependency,'' instead of creating social mobility.

''Together,'' he told the Wednesday evening dinner gathering, ''we can break this degrading cycle - with fairness, compassion, and love in our hearts.''

For the record, delegates wholeheartedly endorsed the Reagan speech. Off the record, however, voices of dissent could be heard.

One former Democrat said he was not ''convinced that the President would put his words into practice.'' He and others expressed a lack of confidence in Reaganomics. What they were looking for, he said, was some assurance of cash flow from the government to minority businesses and communities, expansion capital, and reduced red tape. ''This was not yet guaranteed in any small business programs offered so far,'' he said.

Other delegates aired similar doubts about the President's commitment to enforce civil rights laws. They were looking for acts to back up the words. One man commented that he wasn't ''sure of Mr. Reagan's appointments to the US Civil Rights Commission and to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.'' Definitely, he said, he and others would like to see more vigorous support of affirmative action.

Earlier in the week, the President's appointee as chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, Clarence Pendleton, called affirmative action a ''bankrupt policy.''

Among those listening to the Reagan address was Jesse Jackson, head of PUSH (People United to Save Humanity.) His comment: ''If this represents new dialogue between the administration and minorities, and new directions, it's good.''

He called the dinner a ''tribute to black Republicans. The main achievement is that black people may become a two-party people. No matter who's in the White House, black people will not be left outdoors.''

Reagan gave ''a very good speech,'' said Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, Ala., chairman of the National Conference of Black Mayors. ''We black mayors have met with him, and we hope this means an open door policy in the White House in the future.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.