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President of Urban League Calls for Review of Inequity

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): July 30, 2001, Monday    
President of Urban League Calls for Review of Inequity     By ROBIN TONER    .

July 30, 2001, Monday

President of Urban League Calls for Review of Inequity


The head of the National Urban League called on the Bush administration today to conduct a comprehensive review of the ''pervasive racism'' in the criminal justice system, from racial profiling to the number of blacks on death row.

Hugh B. Price, president of the Urban League, said at the group's annual conference, ''Tonight, I say to President Bush what I once said to President Clinton: race relations won't improve in America until racism in the criminal justice system subsides.'' Mr. Price praised Mr. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for expressing concern about the issue but asserted, ''It's time they move beyond empathy to aggressive corrective action.''

They could begin, he said, by creating a panel of criminal justice experts to ''scrutinize every facet of the federal, state and local criminal justice system'' for the influence of race.

He also called on the administration to participate in the United Nations conference on racism in South Africa. Administration officials had indicated that they would not send representatives if organizers focused on reparations for slavery or equating Zionism with racism. ''America must not be missing in action at the World Conference come September,'' Mr. Price said.

The Urban League, a 91-year-old civil rights group with chapters in more than 100 cities, opened a four-day session here that will feature appearances by President Bush and several top administration officials. Mr. Price said he welcomed Mr. Bush's participation and was ''deeply honored by it.'' But he also issued a scathing review of the policies produced by Washington in recent months and years.

''I say it's cruel for Washington to end welfare as we knew it, tell poor people they must work, then argue bitterly year after year about raising the minimum wage and extending the earned income tax credit for the working poor,'' Mr. Price said to applause. ''It's heartless to enact a tax cut that sends $600 rebates to millionaires, yet gives nary a dime to low-wage workers who earn too little to pay federal income taxes, but pay plenty of other taxes.''

Such policies only underscore the need for ''a development revolution'' among black Americans, ''to eradicate the economic gaps that separate far too many African-Americans from the American mainstream,'' Mr. Price said.

''Develop we must because with its shifting ideologies and agendas, government cannot and should not be counted on to do it for us,'' he said, adding, ''We must show America that we have so much value to contribute, educationally, economically and politically, that it's foolhardy to ignore us.''

This new revolution should include greater political pressure for ''a livable wage'' for the working poor; greater responsibility among rap musicians and entrepreneurs to ''help illuminate the way out'' rather than ''dragging impressionable young audiences down into depression and despair''; and a new focus on education.

Part of the answer is more parental involvement at home and higher expectations of the schools, he argued, saying, ''we must have zero tolerance for failing schools.''

Earlier in the day, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate to the House, called for a new focus on African-American boys and men. She also said: ''Our issues and our people must never depend on who is president of the United States or who controls the Congress of the United States. We must continue to move forward regardless of who's in charge.''

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

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