NAACP Head Attacks Republican Leaders In Congress

By Eddie Evans
Reuters, Saturday, February 20, 1999, 4:53 PM ET
� Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Declaring racism is alive and well in America, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond Saturday accused the Republican leaders of Congress of being hostile to civil rights.

Despite advances since segregation, racism is everywhere and especially in politics, the veteran activist said at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's 90th annual meeting.

"As we meet, the leadership of the House and Senate is more hostile to civil rights than at any time in the recent past," Bond told the biggest and oldest U.S. civil rights organization.

"They have become the running dogs of the wacky radical right," he added. The NAACP is holding its annual meeting in Washington for the first time. Bond said new House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, supported a measure in the last Congress that would have eliminated federal equal opportunity programs.

He expressed disappointment in senators' response to news last year that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had spoken to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white extremist group in his home state of Mississippi, as recently as 1995 and hosted its leaders at his Capitol offices in 1997.

"To date, no member of the Senate, not one Democrat and not one Republican, has spoken out against this outrage," Bond said.

Bond, who rose to national prominence during the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s and was among the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said that racism in America today "less often wears a hood and burns a cross."

"Now it sometimes wears a three-piece suit, but behind that disguise there lurks an evil that our forefathers and mothers fought," he said.

He noted that the net assets of black families in which one member has a postgraduate degree are less than the assets of white families with only elementary school education.

Welfare reform, in which states encourage recipients to seek work, is pushing millions of unskilled workers into fierce competition for low-paying jobs, driving down wages. "And for those workers whose skins are black or brown, the gap is greater and their prospects are bleaker."

"As the clock ticks down to the end of the 20th century, it sometimes seems to be running backward, threatening to take us back to a dangerous past," he said.