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Civil Rights Leaders Accused of Advocating Discrimination

Times Staff Writer

Assistant Atty. Gen. William Bradford Reynolds, accelerating his attack on civil rights leaders, accused them Thursday of advocating “discrimination to end all discrimination” by supporting “ostrich-like” quotas, goals and timetables to combat race and sex job bias.

Reynolds said that over-reliance on numerical remedies to fight discrimination amounts to “a callous disregard for minority rights.”

In a major speech, Reynolds told the Rotary Club in Wilmington, Del., that critics of the Administration’s civil rights policies have misrepresented them as being “preoccupied with the problem of reverse discrimination, with protecting only white males.”

‘Sophomoric Retort’

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Such misrepresentation, he said, is “a sophomoric retort . . . clearly reflective of a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of first principles.”

“In reality, there is only discrimination, pure and simple, whether it operates in forward gear or in reverse,” Reynolds said. “There simply are no winners under a racially preferential program--however devised--only losers.”

Reynolds’ speech originally was timed to be delivered when President Reagan issued an anticipated revision of an executive order that requires affirmative action in federal contracting, according to Justice Department sources. Backed by Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, Reynolds has called for the most sweeping revision of the 1965 executive order by eliminating any quota requirement.

But with his Cabinet split on the issue, Reagan has not reached a final decision, now expected later this month. A copy of Reynolds’ remarks was made available in Washington.

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Group Issues Response

Ralph G. Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella lobbying group that appeared to be the prime target of Reynolds’ latest attack, said in response:

“Brad Reynolds and Ed Meese are attempting to repudiate the enforcement policies of every Democratic and Republican administration over the past half-century. Brad is a rigid ideologue, and that ideology blinds him to the history of discrimination in this country, the facts and the law.”

Reynolds, in his comments, said that the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation ruling sparked a movement toward “a true restoration of the principle of equality and the practice of non-discrimination.”

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But in the 1970s, he said, things started to change as the civil rights movement “began to settle comfortably into the institutional environment of Washington.”

“Some of those who had been in the forefront of the battle for equal opportunity began to pursue policies calculated to compromise that principle for which so many had fought for so long,” he said. “They embarked on a misguided venture to find shortcuts to achieve the fruits American society has to offer.”

‘Equality of Results’

As a result, Reynolds said, “the cherished ideal of equality of opportunity gave way in many quarters to a drive for a new kind of equality--an equality of results. And civil rights successes and failures came to be measured on the basis of statistical balance or imbalance.”

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He cited a recent poll that he said shows that more than 77% of the black community favors equal rather than preferential treatment.

The poll, conducted by Linda Lichter, co-director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, found a wide split between average black Americans and black political and civil rights leaders.

The poll, which has drawn some criticism for the wording of its questions, appeared in Public Opinion, a publication of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank here.


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