The Alexandria Human Rights Commission will investigate a local black group's charges of racial discrimination in education, housing and employment in the city, the agency's administrator said yesterday.
Stephen Levinson said the commission has agreed to meet next month with representatives of Black Forum, a group of prominent black citizens that made the charges. He said his agency plans to discuss the group's concerns and prepare a report on the charges for Mayor Charles E. Beatley and the City Council.
"To say in a blanket allegation that there is racism in the city is a totally inappropriate statement," Levinson said. "If that's true, someone should substantiate it."
George H. Lambert, local Urban League president and Black Forum member, said no one has formally accused anyone of anything. The Forum, he said, is concerned about the disproportionately small number of blacks serving on city boards and commissions, working in key positions at City Hall and in the school system, whose student body is nearly 50 percent black.
Lambert said he was disappointed that in Alexandria--a city of 106,000 that is 22.3 percent black--the mayor had decided that the black group should talk to the commission before going to the City Council.
"I think the city slipped, whether by intent or by thinking it is using the best method, when it shuttled us off to the commission," said Nelson E. Greene Sr., a former City Council member and a spokesman for the Forum. Greene said that during his recent three-year term white citizens' groups did not have to deal with intermediaries when they wanted to address the mayor and the City Council.
In September, the Forum wrote a letter to Beatley and the City Council asking for a meeting to discuss problems facing black Alexandrians. In his reply, Beatley said he believed it more appropriate for the group to first report its concerns to the commission, which has a mandate to review the city's affirmative action plan and related matters.