John E. Jacob, former president of the Washington Urban League, said last week that futile efforts to escape from poor blacks and the problems of urban life are major factors underlying the changing racial face of the District of Columbia and its suburbs.
"It is no coincidence," Jacob said, "that most of Fairfax County's new white population is moving to its outer borders, or that inner Fairfax had a 60 percent jump in its black population from 1970 to 1975. It's no coincidence that as 91,000 blacks moved to Prince George's County . . . 73,000 whites left. "It's no coincidence that white arrivals in Montgomery County have slowed since 25,000 blacks moved in. Nor is it suprising that for the first time in a quater-century . . . the number of whites moving into the District increased . . . while white flight tapered off.
"Not counting prejudice, the reasons for white District immigration, and the black exodus to the suburbs are different - and the difference is the legacy of racism," Jacob told about 700 persons attending the Seventh Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Dinner last week at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Jacob said that those who had fled to more distant suburbs in an effort to avoid blacks and the ills of the city could soon be overtaken by creeping urbanization unless area governments work jointly to solve problems of the region's changing population patterns.
"It looks like central cities are getting smaller, richer, more expensive, more liveable - and whiter, too. It looks like the inner suburbs are getting bigger, denser, more urban, less cost-efficient, less liveable - and blacker, too," he said. "And way out on that great white suburban frontier, it is written: "Hou Shalt Not Escape."
"Unless the managers of urban change in metropolitan regions wake up soon, urbanization will peek over the back fence, blight will smoke out the barbeques, taxes will reach the mountaintops, and Lord Have Mercy, black folks will be there, too."
During the dinner, three persons were honored for "outstanding service to community life." The three were:
Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.), one of the most visible persons active in the effort to obtain full congressional voting representation for the District.
Joseph H. Riley, president of National Savings and Trust Co., who was cited for efforts to open up credit opportunities to minorities and for helping minority businesses.
Alexandria preschool teacher Ruby J. Tucker of the Alive Child Depvelopment Center. Tucker has served on five PTAs and cared for 14 foster children.
A major framework for Jacob's remarks was the findings of two Wahington Urban League studies, one in 1976 and another in 1978, which exacmined the problems of the poor in Washington and found joblessness, the lack of affordable housing, inconvenient transportation systems and poor city services to be major concerns.
Jacob directed many of his remarks at the plight of blacks in the Washington suburbs, particulary Northern Virginaia.
Jacob said, for example, that middle-income blacks in the suburbs were faced with the prospect of losing their homes, just as thousands of District residents are threatened by displacement.
He cited the case of Odricks Corner, a century-old black community in Fairfax County, where 21 homeowners stand to lose their property if state Highway Department officials carry out a plan to slice through the settlement with a toll highway. Some of the residents have lived in Odricks Corner, which was once a settlement for freed slaves, for several decades.
"If blacks who have fought a hundred years to reach stability aren't safe, how much more vulnerable are low-income people," Jacob said.
Jacob criticized government efforts, primarily at the federal level, to "cool down an overheated economy" through continuing unemployment.
"No-income families just won't believe inflated earnings are worse than none." he said.
Jacob called on Washington area employers to undertake more job training programs in their own "self-interest" and for area governments to work together to solve continuing social problems.
"Every time a low-skilled black is turned away because an employer refused to invest in entry-level training to make up for past disadvantage . . . " Jacob said, "private-sector Washington is acting like a homeowner waiting for his house to burn down before taking out insurance."
Jacob, who since February has been executive vice president of the National Urban League, termed the speech a "memorandum to our new administration and the people who live in this community." He offered qualified praise to the nearly four month-old adiministration of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
"We applaud the public emphasis this administration has early given to the search for low-and moderate-income housing. for more jobs for youth and the low-skilled unemployed, for impartial health care and schools that teach," Jacob said.
Before Jacob spoke, Barry told the crowd, "We have to realoze that in 1979, things are still not alright for black people and poor people in america . . . I've tried to demonstrate (during four months in office) that we can run our government effectively and we can do things right."