"An Action Agenda,"by Hugh Price November/December 1997 issue of Poverty & Race
To be blunt, we worry that the game plan for the Initiative going forward is long on dialogue and short on action. We offer the following recommendations:
·By the middle of the next century, our nation's population will be roughly one half Caucasian, one half people of color. Accordingly, we urge Mr. Clinton and the Advisory Board to remind the American people of these demographic trends, over and over, until we understand the inevitability and accept the clear implication that the opportunity structure of society must be kept wide open to America's growing population of color. We strongly recommend that the President mount a campaign to ensure that this message is repeated in task force reports, town meetings and in the media.
· We call upon President Clinton and the Advisory Board to keep up the pressure on higher education and employers to stay the course on inclusion. Just as the President has summoned leaders of other sectors to the White House for highly publicized mini-summits, we urge him to invite corporate CEOs, Chamber of Commerce leaders, and university presidents and board chairs to a series of high profile meetings to affirm their commitments to inclusion.
·We urge the President and the Task Force to mount a campaign to pressure state and local educators, policy makers and elected officials to institute the changes needed in schools and communities to lift the achievement levels of underachieving children. Those key changes include:
- Quality pre-school education;
- Qualified teachers who genuinely believe minority youngsters can learn;
- Widespread access to intellectually challenging courses;
- More intimate and autonomous public schools whose core mission is student learning instead of keeping order; and
- Constructive programs and caring adults after school and over the summer while parents are earning a living.
This campaign to elevate student achievement should be waged through high profile White House summits, regional and local town meetings, concerted media outreach, public service advertisement campaigns and, of course, aggressive use of the bully pulpit.
In addition, President Clinton should review all federal policies and appropriations dealing with pre-K programs, K-12 education and juvenile justice to make certain they advance these five goals.
· We implore the President and the Task Force to take up the issue of police/civilian tensions. The Initiative simply cannot and must not sidestep the festering issue of police brutality and abuse toward minority civilians. Mr. Clinton should summon governors, mayors, and state and local police chiefs to call public attention to the urgent need for reform.
· Mr. Clinton should underscore his determination by insisting that the Justice Department investigate and prosecute any patterns of abuse. Finally, he should instruct the U.S. Solicitor General to urge the courts to scale back the runaway discretion that has permitted this abuse of civilians who've done little or nothing wrong.
· President Clinton and the Advisory Board should attack the problem of racial isolation by challenging the religious community to reconnect people of different races on a regular basis, for instance, through Sunday school exchanges. They should exhort college presidents and student leaders to find ways to bridge the chasms in communications and trust.
· The Clinton administration should pressure school districts and federal courts to stay the course on school integration wherever it's feasible demographically. Finally, the Advisory Board should publicize and disseminate effective curricula for promoting intergroup understanding and tolerance in elementary and secondary schools.
· Lastly, no Initiative to improve race relations can succeed if the federal agency that polices racial discrimination in enfeebled. President Clinton should insist that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receive adequate funding to clean up its backlog of roughly 80,000 cases and then stay current with its caseload for a change.
Hugh Price is President of the National Urban League. The above was excerpted from a statement of recommendations released at an Oct. 7 press conference.
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