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Clark Calls for Social Justice


Many of the theoretical legal rights of a poor city dweller count for little in practice, Clark said. "If a ghetto dweller buys something--that may have been bought and repossessed seven times before--what does he do if it doesn't work? Can he sue? Where would he find a lawyer, or pay for him?" Clark said that legal aid societies fill "maybe one per cent of the legal needs of ghetto residents."

"If a poor man is arrested, what are his rights?" Clark said. The Supreme Court's Gideon decision "is a good one, because it means that those arrested for serious charges are entitled to lawyers. Sometimes it might even say 'a lawyer who knows what he's doing.' "

Clark said that another Supreme Court decision--"Miranda," which requires police to notify suspects of their legal rights--"is not too meaningful because no one pays attention to it." Many people oppose Miranda, Clark said, "because they fear telling some people about rights that other people know they have."


"We assume there is a right to be secure in person and property," Clark said. "But what security is there in the getto?" While about 14 per cent of America's people are black, Clark said, some 62 per cent of murder victims and 64 per cent of assault victims are black.

"You have to ask why this happens," he said. "Take a map of a city," Clark said, "and mark certain areas on it--areas where the unemployment rate is 50 per cent or more, where the median income is half that of the city as a whole, where the average years of education are four less than for the whole city, where the population density is 50 times greater than the city average, where the death rate is 25 per cent higher and the life expectancy is 7 years shorter than for the whole city."

"If you take those marks, and then mark the areas where two thirds of violent crimes occur, you'll have the same areas marked every time.

"Our social stability depends on the resignation of the poor to being poor. Our poor will not be resigned. Would you want them to?"

Clark also spoke about educational inequalities. "Individual fulfillment is impossible without education, because of the complexity of our society," he said, but the "right to an equal education" is still a myth.

Nine years after the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregated schools, Clark said, only one per cent of the black children in the South attended integrated schools. And in 1969--"after a massive effort. . .a politically expensive effort"--less than 20 per cent of the black children were in integrated schools.

But in the face of these slow gains, Clark said, "a more profound inequality is developing." While the government has concentrated on the South, "a massive new segregation has grown up in the North. The law has barely begun to look at it."

This urban segregation might not be as overt as the old Jim Crow system, Clark said, "but as long as the segregated education is unequal, can it make any difference what caused it? Musn't the law be that every school district in the U.S. has an obligation to end segregation--no matter what its cause?"

As the world's population grows in the next 30 years, Clark said, there will be four billion new people, and 75 per cent of them will be black, brown, or yellow." Unless the U.S. "can show that blacks and whites can live together with dignity, respect and love, what do we think will happen when the new nations emerge?"

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