National leaders of black and Hispanic organizatons announced yesterday that they will no longer fight each other over the smallest portions of the nation's economic and political pie but will work together to try to identify and advance common needs and interests.
"There's been a lot of playing off of one minority against the other," said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the Washington-based civil rights group, the National Council of LaRaza and one of the conveners of yesterday's meeting.
"Today, we made a commitment that we're going to put an end to that," he said.
The "commitment" was made in a meeting of black and Hispanic leaders that included Benjamin F. Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Vernon E. Jordon Jr., president of the National Urban League, and Maria B. Cerda, executive director of the Chicago-based Latino Institute among its 24 participants.
The meeting was largely the brainchild of the National Urban Coalition, a Washington-based, nonprofit urban action group composed of business labor and civil rights leaders.
NUC president M. Carl Holman said yesterday's session was "urgently needed" because of the troubled American economy, and because of what he and others see as a swing to the right in national politics.
During this particular period, we are deeply concerned that the two largest minorities in the country are very likely to become the earliest victims of the attempts to deal with inflation and the erosion of the value of the dollar," Holman said. He said last Tuesday's election "of what many call a more conservative Congress" added to the sense of urgency.
Holman said yesterday's closed , day-long session resulted in agreement between the black and Hispanic leaders on the following "principles."
To promote a better understanding of one another's problems, common concerns and cultural differences.
To identify and promote "mutual national policy objectives" - in housing, jobs and education, to name a few - of "vital interest" to black and Hispanic communities.
To strengthen Hispanic and black participants in the political process "at all levels of government" by promoting and coordinating voter education and registration programs.
To "seek to ensure that our constituencies do not bear the brunt of a restrictive economic, social and political climate."
To reach their goals, the leaders formed the Working Committee on Concerns of Hispanics and Blacks, consisting of several task forces. Holman called the formation of the new group a "historic" event.
"We weren't here as long as the people who met at Camp David," Holman said, referring to the nearly two week meeting last September between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at President Carter's Maryland retreat.
"Over and over, we had to correct each other's misimpressions of one another," he said of yesterday's meeting. But, he added, "I think we got an earlier consensus" than the Camp David conferees.