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In the face of an increasing attitude among whites that "we must get these people off our backs," Blacks will have to fight an uphill battle just to remain at their present status, Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) told a Kennedy School forum audience last night.
Blacks will have to battle "a very, very ugly, mean mood in the Congress," and "an administration that sees its election as a mandate to dismantle every social program ever passed," Stokes said.
The most urgent step for Blacks is to wean away from their "congenitally stupid unwillingness to swing between the major parties," Charlie S. Stone, senior editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, told the crowd of 80.
By sticking with the Democratic party last November while every other major ethnic and religious group backed President Reagan, "we confined ourselves to the back of the political bus." Stone said. Instead, Black leaders must become "power brokers," he added.
Another major problem in the Black community is that it is "void in charismatic leadership." Gloria Toote, former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said, adding that Blacks do not encourage young Blacks to serve.
While the House majority has presented little real opposition to Reagan's programs, the Congressional Black Caucus, comprised of the 18 Black members of Congress, has worked out an alternative budget to Reagan's, making it the "only true Democratic leadership in Congress," Stokes said.
All members of the panel said they believe that the only way to political progress for Blacks is through greater political sophistication.
Blacks must also work to rebuild strained coalitions, particularly with labor unions and Jewish leaders, Stone said.
Stone also praised politically sophisticated Blacks such as Los Angeles Mayor Thomas Bradley, who appeal to a white constituency with "transethnic politics."
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