The Urban League and racism

July 28, 1994

Unidentified sources apparently connected with the O.J. Simpson defense team planted some very irresponsible stories in two magazines last week. They suggested, without hard evidence, that Mr. Simpson was being framed by a white Los Angeles Police Department detective, Mark Fuhrman, whose motive was racist.

In Los Angeles of all places to try something like that! Fortunately, black leaders in the city immediately blistered the defense team. "Anyone who plays the race card had better be damn sure there's something to it," said John Mack, head of the Los Angeles Urban League. "I would hope the prosecution and the defense would not be playing a win-at-all-costs strategy. We just went through hell in this city for three years." He was referring to the aftermath of the Rodney King trials.

There are polls showing that in Southern California and elsewhere blacks are more likely than whites to believe O.J. Simpson is innocent, but to try to insinuate into that public mood the belief that he is the innocent victim of a racist prosecution is irresponsible in the extreme. The appropriate bar and court entities should investigate to see if in fact lawyers did spread such rumors, and if so if a professional punishment is indicated.

This was not the only time in recent days that an Urban League official said something sensible about race and race relations in the country. Last Sunday, Hugh Price, the new national president of the Urban League, warned blacks, "We must not let ourselves, particularly our children, fall into the paranoid trap of thinking that racism accounts for all that plagues us."

He sees a lot of other "culprits" for the misery of the black ghettos in big cities. The main one is the globalization of the economy. Jobs that used to sustain black communities are being performed in Asia, Africa and Latin America. "For inner city folk, there are fewer and fewer jobs for low-skilled workers, especially males," Mr. Price said. He called for private and public efforts to provide more jobs where they are needed, and he noted that since many non-black communities are also suffering, "we must coalesce with people of other complexions who feel the same pain."

This urging of a multi-racial effort recalls the old spirit of the civil rights movement that succeeded so well for middle class blacks. It comes as a welcome counter to the separatist rhetoric that has typified some other debate in this area lately. So did his pointed reminder that among pro-civil rights groups, none has been more dedicated to the civil rights cause than the very Jews who have been the object of so much vilification -- racism of sorts -- in some black circles.

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