The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson has urged black leaders to begin responding to the Reagan administration's criticism by citing their accomplishments over the past 25 years.
"From '60 to '85 -- 25 years -- we've overcome U.S. apartheid, won the public accommodations act, the right to vote, open housing, helping to elect [presidents John F.] Kennedy, [Lyndon B.] Johnson, [Jimmy] Carter . . . . We must not let the present climate of antiblack mania and search for scapegoats to their political ineptitude and economic chaos break our spirit," Jackson said in a closed session of the National Black Leadership Roundtable held here last weekend.
In a January interview, President Reagan said black leaders did not want to hear his ideas for helping blacks because "maybe some of those leaders are protecting some rather good positions that they have and they can protect them better if they can keep their constituency aggrieved and believing that they have a legitimate complaint."
His comments followed similar criticism of black leaders by Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Pendleton said Jackson and other black leaders had led blacks into a "political Jonestown" in the 1984 presidential election and were more concerned about their ability to "make lots of money, [gain] social acceptance and attract broad-based media attention."
Since those comments, black leaders have been mostly silent. The only direct response came after Pendleton said civil rights leaders were behaving like "new racists" for advocating quotas. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.) then called him a "lackey."
"That's a mug's game," M. Carl Holman, president of the National Urban Coalition, said of replying to the administration's comments.
"You have to be sure in responding that you are not just further spreading your enemies' words . . . and we have our own agenda," he said. "I remember Martin [Luther King Jr.] refrained from responding to attacks on him and he explained that he had only so much energy to expend and he was going to use it on what he wanted to get done and not let someone else set his agenda."