The Rev. Ed F. Johnson, pastor of Morris Chapel Baptist Church and a social worker for the Connie Maxwell Children's Home, both in Greenwood, S.C., also has been active politically in the black community of South Carolina. Here, in a conversation with staff writer Haynes Johnson, he gives a view of the Reagan administration, of President Reagan and of his concerns about blacks today.
There are very negative views about Mr. Reagan. He is not popular. In the religious area, he has become the King Nebuchadnezzar. If you recall the Biblical story, when the Israelites went into Babylonian captivity King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was never God's favorite. He was not a God person and yet God used him as he put the Israelites into captivity. That was their punishment. And we have proclaimed from the pulpit that maybe Reagan is God's man for our suffering so that we can realize how negligent we have been.
But there are no good feelings about Reagan as president. He has probably done more to hurt the Republican Party among black folk in this area than anyone else in years.
To me personally, I like the man. I think it's because he's an older man who is able to go about with a kind of courage. I do not like his philosophy. At one time I thought I could trust him, but that feeling has been damaged a lot the last two months because the more I hear him saying some things about how his program is working, how inflation is going down. And I say if you stop people spending money because they're out of work, where else is inflation going? When we hear this over and over, it comes over like, "Well, the program itself is bringing inflation down and everything is fine." But when you get people out of work, where else is it going to go?
Then I also don't like what happened that other night Oct. 13 when he made that speech. He called it nonpartisan, but it was all political. I see him as hypocritical.
I think we're going to recover, but when I think about what it's going to be like 10 years from now, I'm frightened. I don't see an easy way out for black children over that period of time. I don't see where the monies that we need will be coming from. When I look at the black community, and at some of the white community as I travel around the state, I am concerned.
What I had hoped for was to see these poor children being able to move into better education and better jobs. Now what I think I see is a struggle over the next 15 or 20 years where the black and white children of the lower level will be fighting for the same kinds of jobs. It won't be any longer where the black kid will say, "Well, I can go over here and do domestic work." There's going to be a fight between blacks and whites to get those jobs. We went through some good times nine or 10 years ago but all those resources are drying up, and we are frightened in our community as to what is going to happen. The gap is widening.