There must have been a lot of wonderment in some quarters last week over National Urban League executive director Vernon Jordan's challenge to and criticisms of President Jimmy Carter's record on black issues. After all, black Americans now legally can do anything that white Americans can do. They can eat at lunch counters, go to public places and get an education - if they happen to be able to afford to live in a neighborhood or have the income to get into schools where education is still a priority. They can get jobs that they are qualified for if they've had the education to qualify them.
So what are Jordan and other black leaders complaining about?
Tonight at 7:05 p.m. on WMAL-AM radio, an hour-long program. "How Far River Jordan," investigates the underpinnings of the disenchantment.
Hosted by WMAL's Lewis Jones and Jim Slade, the program takes a look at civil rights and the status of blacks 10 years this month after the urban disturbances fanned across America.
What they find in talking with historians John Hope Franklin and ThadTate, U.S. attorney for civil rights Drew Days, sociologist Kenneth Clark, civil rights attorney Joseph Rauh, and the NAACP's Clarence Mitchell, is that there is a shift from a fight for legal civil rights on the part of blacks to a translation of rights into economic equality.
They note change in the climate of America. While in the 60s many white Americans were convinced that blacks should have the legal rights of other citizens, many whites now feel that enough has been done. There is the rise of a new conservatism, as well as in the general population, in the Supreme Court and the Congress, that many blacks say seems to be a retrenchment on the part of white America.
Program participants discuss the case of Allan Bakke, a 36-year-old white who is challenging affirmative action at the University of California at Davis medical school.
What will be the implications for the future of blacks and other minorities who, while they have gained a late equal equality did not start equal. For anyone who really wants to know what Jordan and other blacks are concerned about, the program is ashort and informative history lesson.