Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Black Groups Plan Push for Votes High Court Angers Many with Rulings on Racial Matters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Black Groups Plan Push for Votes High Court Angers Many with Rulings on Racial Matters

Article excerpt

SHAKEN BY Supreme Court decisions they consider hostile, civil rights activists spelled out a strategy Friday for fighting back. A main goal: getting masses of black people to act in their own interest.

The NAACP is staging a "national voter empowerment campaign" that seeks to mobilize black constituents in political districts where they comprise at least 15 percent of eligible voters but less than a majority.

The effort, approved in advance, is the first grass-roots response to Thursday's Supreme Court decision that using race as an overriding concern when drawing minority districts is unconstitutional.

"We have to turn this pain around," said Ed Hailes Jr., a lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "Our participation in democracy is being denied."

Thursday's ruling was the latest in a series by the high court this year that black activists say have chipped away at the hard-won gains of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Earlier, the court also jeopardized many federal affirmative action programs by saying Congress must abide by the same strict anti-bias standards as state and local governments. And the justices made it easier for school systems to get out from under federal supervision of school desegregation.

Some feel those decisions may have been the shock needed to prod black Americans out of the passivity that made many of them sit out last year's election, in which a Republican majority was sent to Congress for the first time in a generation.

"I can assure you, we won't go back," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat whose Texas district is under challenge. "We know how to vote. And we will vote. We do it best when we have a reason to."

As the redistricting decision came down Thursday, the National Urban League canceled plans to hold its 1996 convention in Los Angeles. It is protesting California Gov. Pete Wilson's executive order ending state affirmative action programs.

The league, alarmed by the high court's affirmative action decision, has made protecting such programs its rallying cry. By canceling the conference - and the revenue it would have generated for the area - the league hopes to discourage other states from following Wilson's lead, particularly in light of the court's decision. …

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