Politics, Power, and Horsetrading: The Broad Opportunities

Black interests or white interests? Segregation, integration, busing, and group pluralism. Garnet High School. Quid pro quo and politics. Carter policies and the Democratic party. The 1982 election. Black initiative.

I am overwhelmingly of the opinion that you can look at this society and see a lot of signals in it in terms of how we are being perceived and how the definition of us changes. And you can see that racism always stays a step ahead of us; no

matter how much progress we make, it redefines itself. One example: you sisters in the audience know that black women have not had any illegitimate children in the last ten years because white women are now having them. They are now called "single-family children." So the same act was redefined when the same phenomenon took place outside of the black community.

We're not alternative leaders; we are people who are black whose basic interests are for black people

You can see the same redefinitions taking place over and over again. We are still grappling with what? Being integrated into white America. And we overwhelmingly today have an automatic polarization in the black community. Today we are calling some of us who speak as I do, and as some of you do, "alternative leaders." We are not alternative leaders; we are people who are black whose basic interests are for black people. The people who we say do not represent black people are those black people who represent white interests in the name of leading black people. It is just that simple.

You will never destroy the roots of pluralism in America because pluralism is what America is

You can understand the issue very clearly when we discuss segregation. It's easy—that's the acid test. When we discuss busing to be with white people, we are saying that we are too inferior to be with ourselves. When we say that you cannot receive a quality education in a black classroom, we are showing not only an ignorance of American history and the legacy of black people, we are demonstrating a new legacy -a legacy of self-hatred which will guarantee that we will never close the gap between economic or political power between blacks and whites. It's simple—it's very simple. America is a segregated society. It is not an integrated society. And if it is ever integrated, it will be integrated based on group pluralism. You will never destroy the roots of pluralism in America because pluralism is what America is. Nobody is melting in this country. Nobody is going to melt in this country.

Black people are blacker today than they were twenty-six years ago when the Brown v. Board of Education decision was passed, and we will be blacker twenty-five years from now than we are tonight. I do not want to surprise anybody, but there are only three things that can take place: I was born black, I shall die black, and in between those two great events, I shall remain black. So I will operate from the premise of blackness without any apology. And I would like to say this for those who may be nervous: pro-blackness and antiwhiteness are antithetical. You cannot be pro-black and be anti-white. Because if you are pro-black, you will have pride. And if you have pride, you will respect persons with different backgrounds.

You have got to give a young person a reason to read, to write, and to count

We have heard a lot today about the high school in Washington that Tom Sowell has done so much phenomenal and extensive research on—Dunbar. I want to tell you a little about a high school named Garnet in Charleston, West Virginia, from which I graduated and, a few years before, Dr. Leon Sullivan graduated. We had about 500 students in the school—all-black faculty, all-black students. We graduated about eighty a year. Ninety to 95 percent of students graduated went to college, and of those who went to college, 90 percent graduated. In the 1940s and 1950s—the school was closed in 1954—we sent graduates to Oxford, Harvard, Yale, the Sorbonne, USC, UCLA, and many other institutions in this country. And we succeeded. We did not succeed because we went to a white institution; we succeeded because we were well prepared.

You cannot equip a young person simply with reading, writing, and counting. You have got to give that person a reason to read, to write, and to count. And we were taught every day of our lives that you cannot be black in white America and be as good as white people. In order to get credit for what they do in a nominal sense, you must be superior in terms of your achievement. That is what got us through. The fact that we stood every day and watched black people in control of our destiny is what made the difference in our lives.

White people do not know how to avoid quid pro quo

White people are very simple to understand, and if you understand the analysis of whites I am about to give you, you can understand an analysis of politics beyond anything that we can learn in any college in this country. It is very simple: white people want something for something. White people do not know how to avoid quid pro quo. They do not know how to design a system of logic that gives you something for nothing. And any time we—lacking power—design policies, programs, or approaches to power that avoid the quid pro quo dictum, they simply cannot comprehend. They have no way to communicate with powerlessness.

There is no need for us to talk about politics unless we talk about it in the context of quid pro quo. I give you and you give me in return. It has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual preference, neighborhood, race, sex, or level of education. It has absolutely everything to do with the acid test—I give to you and you give to me.

We made a deal with Jimmy Carter in 1976, and shot ourselves in the foot. Ninety-four percent of us voted for that peanut farmer. Fifty-five percent of the white people in the South showing some form of wisdom voted against him. Fifty-two percent of all white people in America voted for Gerald Ford. If it had not been for the 90 to 94 percent margin that he got from blacks, Carter would not have got. ten into the White House. He promised us 30 million jobs. Andy Young got the job.

Jimmy Carter came back in 1980 and sent his surrogates—Jesse Jackson, Andy Young, Coretta King, et al.—to assure us he had appointed more black judges than any president in history. And while he was appointing more black judges than any president in history, he reduced the share of the federal education budget for black colleges from 5.2 percent under President Ford to 4.1 percent under himself; while his office of civil wrongs at the Department of Education was destroying black colleges in the name of desegregation and destroying the institutions from which we get 50 percent of our college graduates each year, he was having wine sips on the lawn with black college presidents, issuing memoranda and executive orders about helping black colleges. Nobody ever pointed out, while he was appointing black judges, that 90 percent of those black judges were lawyers who graduated from black colleges; if he had been president fifty years earlier, there would not have been a black lawyer in America to appoint to be a black judge.

But why did we vote for-him again? Ninety percent, they say—in effect, 86 percent—voted for him. Polls prior to the election indicated that 9 percent of blacks would vote for Reagan, but the exit polls showed that 14 percent did so, which means 5 percent of blacks voted—but do not want to say they voted—for Ronald Reagan. Still, about 90 percent of us went again for Carter in 1980. Why? Because we subscribe to the Democratic party's approach to the black community, which is simply called "less racism." The Democratic party says this: "This white man is a Democrat; therefore he's a liberal and all liberals like blacks. This white man is a conservative and a Republican, and at birth racist genes invade the body of any little white baby born who is going to be a Republican and/or a conservative. Therefore, vote less racism. Vote Democratic."

Have you done for me for what I have done for you?

What we should do is to say, "Let's assume that both white men are racists," or "Let's assume that neither white man is a racist." And then vote quid pro quo—have you done for me for what I have done for you?

We now are looking at the next elections. The Republican party is looking at the states; they know that if they can persuade the black communities in South Carolina, in Michigan, in Georgia, and in all of these states, that they can take the state houses as well as the House of Representatives in 1982. That is the battle plan.

How do we fit into that? I am sitting back and watching Reverend Hosea Williams and Reverend Ralph Abernathy, that's what I am doing. I am going to read quid pro quo because those two men went out on the limb. They took fire. They drew fire. They supported Ronald Reagan when it was not popular to support him. They put it on the line. And I want to see what the Reagan administration is going to do for them. I want to see what the Reagan administration is going to do for Dr. Gloria Toote who, in 1976, endorsed Ronald Reagan when he certainly was not popular among black people. I want to know what the Republican party is going to do for traditional black Republicans who have stood up for the Republican party in face of great hostility in the black community.

Based simply on the results, I will either say that the Reagan administration is better than the Carter administration or that it is worse, if that is possible, than the Carter administration. Simple. There is nothing else involved. There is no such thing as civil rights. There is no such thing as those phony issues such as voting against busing, the anti-busing amendment. Busing has been dead for the last ten years and everybody in this country knows it. For anybody to use busing as an example, as a criterion of whether or not a party is relating to black people, is simply to create a side issue. To seriously talk about whether or not you are sitting next to white people is simply to create a diversion. "White people," whether we talk about loving them or hating them, is a divisive tactic, away from what we should be concentrating on. You can sit next to all of the white people in the world if you have an American Express or another credit card.

Yet we certainly need to desegregate America, and I do not know anybody within the sound of my voice who is interested in segregation. We are all interested in desegregation and we are all interested in an equitable society that will deal with us on a fair basis in spite of, or in disregard of, our race, sex, creed, religion, or whatever.

There is no way that we can desegregate a society and be unequal to the persons with whom we want to be

There is no way in the world that we can desegregate a society and be unequal to the persons with whom we want to be. There is no way in the world that we can continue to give Jesse Jackson $4 million as a political payoff in the name of educating black people. See, by contrast, Marva Collins, who—into her brownstone on the West Side of Chicagotakes young black children off the street; she took a child who was in a class for retarded in Chicago public schools and in one year had that child reading at tenth-grade level. They read Aesop's Fables and the dictionary, and in the second grade they diagram sentences. She is a miracle worker. And she did not get a penny.

And do not ignore, when you talk about business development, what Percy Sutton and Inner City Broadcasting have done in New York. They took a station that was seventythird in a market with 73 stations; today it is the number-one most-listened-to commercial radio station in the world. More black people listen to WBLS in New York than live in Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, or Washington. They did not do that with federal subsistence and heavy doses of getting paid off.

Another case in point: two black people in Philadelphia, Sister Fatah and her husband David, opened up their home to gangs. Philadelphia was America's gang capital. They took in 500 gang members, and today there is no such thing in Philadelphia as gang warfare. These people did not get a penny. As was said on this panel earlier, no one looks to the Percy Suttons, to the Marva Collinses, or the House of Umoja in Philadelphia for solutions. I say it is simple.

There is no contradiction between the black community and fiscal responsibility

There is not a black person in this country who is not interested in cutting the waste and the corruption out of government because we are hurt most by it. Our community has a tradition of slicing waste because we have never had any fat. If you really want to know how to cut waste, just come to us. My mama took a potato—on Monday she fried it, baked it Tuesday, broiled it Wednesday, mashed it Thursday, and Friday it was so good I did not know what I was eating.

There is no contradiction between the black community and fiscal responsibility. We have never wanted to see a CETA program in which young black people who wanted to help themselves were given jobs from political hacks to go out and campaign for them. That is not the intention of CETA. We do not fear the Reagan administration's cutting fat—we are not worried about the cuts.

We are worried about curing inflation, because I am afraid that this country is already in an inflationary depression. I believe that. I have believed it for the last five years. And if we do not stop the hemorrhaging, as they now call it, of this economy, we are not going to be here debating politics, in- volvement in two-party processes, or anything else. No one needs to have inflation controlled more than poor people and black people. The problem is that they always want to give all of the pain to the black people. Any time the programs come about to bring parity, parity always ends up as something too expensive and too hard and too painful for black people to be able to afford.

"You may not get all you pay for in life, but you'll certainly pay for all you get"

I would like to say this in closing: I love America. But I love America for some reasons that are different from those of other people. I love America because the first American to die in the Revolutionary War was a black man. I love America because an African who came this way, named Dr. Charles Drew, went to Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, gave the world blood plasma that has saved billions and billions of lives—and died in an accident in North Carolina became the hospital would not admit him for a blood transfusion because he was black. I love America because Garrett A. Morgan gave the world the electric traffic sign so that we could have a system of street safety, not to stop black cars or black people in cars, but so we could all have a system of street safety.

Yes, I love America because Sarah Boone gave the world the patent to the ironing board so we could all have a wellpressed shirt and a well-pressed skirt. And Hank Aaron is not the all-time black home-run hitter in baseball; Hank Aaron is the all-time home-run hitter in baseball.

So let us know when we discuss politics, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters—let us know that we have as great a stake in this country and we have done as much for this country and the world as any other group, and that we have an earned right. This is not a token. Frederick Douglass, one of the best, greatest, and most important Re- publicans who ever lived, said, "You may not get all you pay for in life, but you'll certainly pay for all you get."


Martin Kilson: "Widening Our Reach"

There are two important things we ought to look for with regard to the black political leadership that has emerged in the last twenty years. One, black leadership has to diversify itself. I will make a couple of comments about that. And two, black leadership now has a real need to nationalize or pluralize itself, to extend, to reach beyond its own ethnic constituent boundaries.

The left/liberal axis no longer has—if it ever did have -a monopoly on effective policy for black needs

Diversifying the black leadership class is not going to be easy, precisely because the homogenized leadership policy of blacks was correct for its time. That is to say, up until the early 1970s it was basically correct to have a homogenized black leadership. The simple reason was naked racism—institutionally fierce, violent at many times, and highly uniform. A remarkably united leadership posture was required. We are in a new era now. Though racism certainly is not lying down in its casket, let alone being honorably buried, still it is much more residual today than in the past.

There are two important dimensions, I think, to diversifying black leadership. One, there is an incredibly pressing need for policy spread, policy redefinition, a growth of greater policy variation than hitherto in the leadership patterns, expressions, relationships, and organizational postures among blacks. There is a pressing need for the policy postures coming from different sectors of the black leadership increasingly to be as random as those which prevail in American politics as a whole. That means, also, party diversification, the other side of the coin to diversifying black leadership attitudes. The party range as well as the. interestgroup range must spread enormously if the kind of policy diversification I have in mind is going to take place.

Why diversification? Three points: one, the left/liberal axis no longer has—if it ever did have—a monopoly on effective policy for black needs. Two, it is now clear that there is too high a cost associated with black policy isolation from conservative initiatives in American political life. Three—and maybe above all—new coalitions are required by blacks. And those new coalition and alliance patterns and network patterns depend increasingly upon greater black policy and party diversification.

Finally, in view of the end of the Democratic party's hegemony, I think that leadership diversification dictates an important need to develop a bipartisan black political and policy posture in American life.

We need a new core of black politicians

The basic need, I think, is to find ways to overlap, however imperfectly, the black political realm and the political realm of a pluralistic American society. We have never been in an era when it was more possible to intermesh the leadership boundaries betwixt and between blacks and whites in American life.

Above all, we need a new core of black politicians. It is true that we are not going to change the way we judge our politicians. Their leadership value is no different from that of James Michael Curley, who from the turn of the century through the 1930s was an Irish mayor of the city of Boston, or Edward Kelly, who was an Irish mayor in the city of Chicago. Politicians are all expected to return some range of benefits that will help to transform the life circumstances of their constituents—in this case, particularly of their ethnic constituents.

There is a special problem which I think really must be made clear as we seriously try for redefinitions of black politics and redefinitions of the leadership that is going to be the cutting edge of black politics. Namely, the black political leader still has the burden of reducing a whole range of negative constraints upon the typical black citizen, constraints which emanate from something that we call "racism." That is a special burden that, in a certain sense, Curley may not have had, nor Edward Kelly, or leaders for other ethnic groups. And that is an important test.

That test is not going to disintegrate overnight, and I think to some extent there is a tendency on the part of some of us here to pretend that it will.

At the same time, however, we need new black politicians who are increasingly expert at managing beyond and across ethnic and racial boundaries. Politicians of the kind that Edward Brooke, in my state of Massachusetts, represented from his first successful bid for state executive office in the late 1950s—the office of attorney general. Blacks at that time made up less than 1.0 percent of Massachusetts' population; at the time of his successful run for the Senate in 1966 the state was still less than 2.0 percent black. We need politicians like the great Arthur Fletcher who, in many ways, is really the granddaddy of this occasion. In the early 1960s Fletcher reached across ethnic and racial boundaries, bidding unsuccessfully for a lieutenant governorship in the state of Washington. I think also of Wilson Riles who has bid successfully three times for the important executive post in education of the state of California. And I think of many others who have pioneered trans-ethnic politics at many levels. For example, the great Percy Sutton, sitting in the first row of this audience, has appealed brilliantly in his political career in the city of New York—across complex ethnic and racial boundaries—on behalf of black needs.

In short, we need a new core of what I call trans-ethnic black political leaders, both liberal and conservative but especially the latter. And this conference just might be one of the events that spark this group of trans-ethnic black politicians.

Robert B. Hawkins, Jr.: "Political Power through Local Action: Developing a Strategy"

I would like today to play the devil's advocate. And I would like to take your arguments a step further, because I think we have to get more specific.

We must build new institutions that will be foundations for new leadership

I do not think we have a crisis only in black leadership; I think, in our pluralistic society, we have a crisis in leadership generally. Because what we have done is to nationalize the foundations of political leadership. While I agree that we need new national leaders, that is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to what must be done. We must build new institutions that will be the foundations for this new leadership.

I suggest that such foundations should and must be selfgoverning institutions. What do I mean by that in an age of public participation? When I think about a self-governing institution, I think of the following points: first, the leaders of that institution should be elected through legitimate local processes. Second, that such an organization must have access to and control of finances; if it is a neighborhood, it must have the capacity to tax itself so that it is not continually coopted by benevolent funders from the state or the national government. Third, such an organization must be able to specify and determine the terms and conditions that apply to the services it produces and for its administrators. If principles of self-control are good at the national and state levels, then they should be good at the local and neighborhood levels.

If you apply these criteria to a key goal of OEO (Organization for Economic Opportunity)—to create and develop selfsustaining institutions in low-income communities—it failed utterly. And I would suggest that it failed because it did not follow the criteria I have just laid down, criteria which I believe to be the foundations upon which America's experiment in self-government was founded.

We look at social problems as management problems rather than political ones

The critical question is why the OEO was necessary. It was necessary because, for sixty years preceding it, there was a fundamental movement in American political society against the notion of self-governance through the sharing of responsibility and power. Woodrow Wilson said it best: "There is a national center of power in any political system, and the more that power is fragmented, the more irresponsible becomes its exercise." At the local level, we have seen consistently for the last thirty years attempts either to consolidate governmental entities into one or to take authority away from elected officials and delegate it to a regional body, a state body, or the federal government. Also in that period we have come to look at social problems as management problems rather than political ones.

In addition, there has been a drive toward equality, in part spurted on because the citizens' liberty to form local units of government was taken away and the only opportunity they had to influence many units of local government was to sue. For example, the Serrano v. Priest decision was, in part, the outcome of consolidating over 60 percent of our school districts into highly responsive and efficient units of government—like the Los Angeles School District, with its 640,000 students. How does any citizen or group of citizens influence that kind of system?

The problems that we have encountered from this consolidation of power are, first, that local groups and local communities have lost their political voices. They do not have the authority they once had to dissolve a unit of government, to form a new one, or to form a neighborhood government. Second, because access to their own funds has been cut off, they have been co-opted by benevolent administrators in OEO or whatever appropriate bureaucracy, because local communities are now dependent upon higher-level governments for their revenues. Third, what has happened, particularly in poor neighborhoods, is that the centralization of power has caused systematic disinvestment by local citizens in their own neighborhoods, which not only has deleterious effects on the economy of the city but has a very serious political impact as well.

New York City in 1952, for example, started systematically to get rid of improvement districts. Those were little mechanisms which citizens in a neighborhood used to tax themselves to put in street lights, to fill potholes, or to take a vacant lot and put a park in it. When those options were taken away, the citizen effectively lost his voice in how monies collectively were spent in his area.

We must again trust citizens and we must place greater reliance on them

There is a somewhat ironic assumption that guides my thinking about this issue. Alexander Hamilton said, in Federalist Number 1, that the question being debated in the ratification of the Constitution was whether societies of men, through reflection and choice, were capable or not of choos- ing good government or whether they were forever destined to be ruled by accident and force.

I would suggest that increasingly we rely on accident and force, rather than relying on citizens, to create, to change, and to maintain their governmental institutions, especially in large cities and in neighborhoods. What we have to think about—and what the new administration must think about—is creating a new partnership that will refashion the terms and conditions of American federalism so that we can renew our experiment in self-governance.

We must again share power. We must empower citizens and not institutions. We must be ever cognizant of the central dilemma that federalism tries to resolve, which is to bring about a just government through the rational distribution of power. We must again trust citizens, and we must place greater reliance on them. We must expect them, once again, to create, maintain, and change their local institutions when they are no longer just and fair.

Things get done in American politics because of coalitions

Finally, what needs to be redistributed are not functions. I am not concerned whether a neighborhood in New York City can sweep streets better than the city can. I am not concerned whether one city can do something better than the state or the federal government. What we should be concerned about is the power of our citizens to again become constitution-makers, to become involved in determining the terms and conditions by which local institutions operate. The question is community, and community power.

I think things get done in American politics because of coalitions. We have to build a coalition around a pluralistic set of groups which is interested not only in questions of free enterprise, but which is concerned about developing institutions that are self-governing, The mission is twofold. First, we have to gain the support of the new administration; then we have to look at every state capital in the United States and start lobbying for these kinds of programs or institutions. Because the states are the only ones who are going to be able to do it, in the long run.

Gloria E. A. Toote: "The Door Is Open"

We have talked about our obligations. But there is one area that has not been addressed, and that is the frustration of being black and poor. We really did not address it in detail because we all know what that frustration is, but we must bear that in mind as we try to comprehend why black America is hesitant to change from its accepted opinions. With the coming of the new administration, the open door is there—but it is simply an open door. It becomes the obligation of the Republican party—it becomes the obligation of the president—to communicate with black America, to assure black America of its commitment, of its concern, of its sensitivity. The failure of the Republican party in the past has not been its lack of commitment. It has been its inadequacy in communicating with the poor. It is that simple. We are very, very poor at public relations.

We must communicate an alternative, viable, acceptable solution for all Americans

The obligation now is greater than ever, for this administration is going to bring about a dramatic change. Program upon program will be exorcized. There is no question of that. The failure of so many programs is evident. But in removing these programs, we must communicate an alternative, viable, acceptable solution for all Americans, poor Americans and black Americans. If we fail to communicate, we may still be successful in reducing inflation, in cutting the federal budget, in reducing regulations; but, as the cliché goes, the operation will be a success but the patient may die. For the patient I am concerned with—and I fully believe that my friend Ronald Reagan is concerned with—is to once and for all come to grips in America with the need for genuine brotherhood, something we do not discuss any more. We discuss civil rights, but we do not discuss brotherhood. We discuss the obligation of the citizen, but we do not discuss the obligation of the neighbor.

This nation will be as great as its littlest citizen

The real problem is to let all Americans know that this nation will be as great as its littlest citizen. The aspiration of any American must be available as the aspiration and dream of all Americans. And what Ronald Reagan said in the campaign was so very meaningful to me when he spoke of minorities—when he spoke to blacks, to white Americans, that hand-in-hand with the quest for civil rights must be the quest for equal economic opportunity for minority America. That is indeed the subject that we have discussed here today.

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