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[[image - logo of the NAACP]] [[image - Benjamin L. Hooks]] Report by Benjamin L. Hooks, NAACP Executive Director, to the membership of the NAACP at the annual meeting in New York on January 10, 1983. The year 1982 was the worst for the traditional victims of racial oppression in recent memory. Many forces in the federal government have contributed to a resolute attack upon the recently won civil rights gains of black Americans. We used to believe that Woodrow Wilson was bad. He led in bringing segregation into federal agencies in Washington. President Reagan has not helped our cause. Furthermore, we continue to accept his disavowals of racial intent in advocating programs that impact disastrously on blacks and the poor. In our continuing attempt to be fair, however, we must ask the President to look more closely on the results of his programs than on the pureness of his ideology. All too often, as we see increasingly these days, there is a contraindication between ideology and practice. When the first would cancel out the beneficial effects of the second, it is at that point that realism and reasonableness should take command. Given the stand of his administration on various social issues, school desegregation in Chicago and elsewhere, the Bob Jones University case and, just last Friday, on an affirmative action program in New Orleans, we must as Mr. Reagan, where is your heart? Where is your sense of social responsibility? Whatever rationalization Mr. Reagan might dream up to support his pursuit of further, disastrous cuts in funding for social programs, there can be no excuse for the attacks on programs and concepts that were born out of the need to remedy historical wrongs against black Americans and to achieve racial equality under the accepted American concept of fairness. History will not be a harsh judge of the Reagan administration. Mr. Reagan might not be moved by such a warning. But, given the long-term, harmful impact that the actions of his administration will have on the nation, we must ask the President once more to seek the counsel of minorities and the poor more actively before he propagates philosophies and programs that might take generations' of effort to correct. If one were to read about equal rights these days, one would get the idea it contributes to ferment, confrontation and antagonism between the races. Busing, we are told, is "divisive." Affirmative Action for blacks is an "abomination," say some political leaders of Democratic and Republican persuasion. And even the Voting Rights Act of 1965 came under intense and vociferous attack on the grounds it was "race-conscious" and "divisive" of the nation. Well, as incredible as it seems, this doubletalk was popularized in the broadcast media and whites organized themselves into political cells and ethnic camps to promote white rights and to reverse and repeal remnants of those programs that were enacted in the last 20 years to give minorities, the poor and those members of society least able to help themselves a bootstrap by which to lift themselves up out of the abyss of despair. The New Rights, and the Old Right, took their stand: -against Legal Services for the poor. -against extension of the Voting Rights Act. -against court-ordered pupil-transportation. -against affirmative action. -against enforcement of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. -against the United States Commission on Civil Rights. For those who paid attention, the NAACP has not been silent; we have not been, as our detractors claim, inactive or moribund. We have taken on our adversaries on the Right, and met them in the places they cower and scheme. Whether they see themselves as anti-black is irrelevant; the sum total of the policies they advocate and promulgate into action has a deleterious impact on black people. The President asserts on the one hand that he wants to give black people a fair chance. But the President has put into high offices people who are avowed enemies of the agencies they are called upon to head and administer. One Presidential nominee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had, as late as 1978, called for the Com- Continued on page 104 11
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