Activist Racism

January 11, 1995|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington.-- Democrats are trying to force Newt Gingrich and his triumphant Republicans to give advance details on how they plan to reduce and revolutionize the federal government. The Democrats express fear that Newt & Co. want to balance the budget through cuts in Medicare and Medicaid -- health care for the aged and the indigent -- and by taking away college scholarships for middle-class youngsters.

The possibility of unwise social cuts does bother me, but not nearly as much as the mood created in America by the ascendancy of Mr. Gingrich and the messianic government shrinkers.

I sense a feeling in many areas that the paranoid, the greedy and the bigots have concluded that this is their era.

California is probably as polarized by race, class and economic woes as any state in the union. That state is still rocking and reeling from the November passage of Proposition 187, which would deny education and non-emergency medical care to illegal immigrants. The courts are seized with the angry fallout.

But now comes a group -- headed by a ''philosopher'' named Harold Wood, who claims he has lost jobs because he is white and ''of the wrong gender'' -- that says it will put on the California ballot in 1996 an initiative to outlaw affirmative action. Mr. Wood boasts that the anti-affirmative action drive ''is going to make 187 look like kindergarten.''

The belief that the political climate is now right for activist racism becomes manifest when you see Mr. Wood's partner, Glynn Custred, asserting that affirmative-action programs bring to universities large numbers of under-prepared students. ''Are we [of the California university system] going to be a remedial institution or an institution of higher education?'' Mr. Custred asks.

Can California and other states already caught up in raging discontent over immigration now afford apoplectic spasms of bigotry over who gets a college scholarship, or a job in some high school, the police or fire department?

A lot of ''white men'' have been told repeatedly lately how angry they are supposed to be. The Republican victory seems to have told them that this is their time to reclaim what they think is theirs, or to take what they want from those of recent arrival, or of skin color, or other physical characteristics that brand them as ''inferior.''

This is a very worrisome phenomenon, not just for California but for the entire nation.

I wish I could believe that the Newt Gingrich who spoke approvingly last week about ''an integrated America'' would boldly disabuse Messrs. Wood, Custred and others of the notion that he will give tacit approval if not rabid support to their dangerously divisive campaign.

But those of the Wood-Custred mentality know that the Republicans have for decades played a fear-the-blacks game in every election. Crying ''quotas'' and ''reverse discrimination'' is to conservative Republicans as murmuring ''Da-da'' is to a baby.

Those seeking to roll the clock back to a time of segregation and rabid racial discrimination don't seem to doubt that the new Republican leaders will give them a green light.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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