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Statement of Honorable Augustus F. Hawkins
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
I am grateful for this opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee and to join in the welcome extended to you.
My remarks are directed to that phase of the war on poverty that is concerned with the plight of those confined within the slum-ghettos and more specifically, the Southeast area of Los Angeles inaccurately referred to as "Watts."
Admittedly, poverty is not just a Negro problem. Five times more whites live in poverty than do Negroes. But a majority of Negroes live in poverty and, psychologically, every Negro in America lives in a slum-ghetto.
And, as Dr. Kenneth Clark, the noted sociologist, so well states: "The dark ghettos of America are a threat to the stability of our entire society for a minority" ... doubly alienated by both class and race ... "that is sick with despair can poison the wellsprings from which the majority, too, must drink."
South Los Angeles is an economic colony more racially segregated than most southern cities. Although many non-Negroes work, teach, and engage in business in the area during the day, after sunset white faces disappear, except policemen in squad cars. In contrast, most Negroes daily leave the community to work, if employed at all, and return at night to sleep.
The plight of the Negroes (over 250,000) who live in south Los Angeles can be briefly described in these simple statistics: An unemployment rate in 1965 of approximately 11 percent in a labor area with a 5.4 percent rate; almost a fifth of the men (14 and over) were neither in school nor in the labor force; almost 49,000 families earned less than $6,000 annually; over 39 percent of persons 25 and over had not gone beyond the eighth grade; and over 26 percent of all families were headed by women.
As applied to Negroes, moreover, the terms "unemployed" and "employed" have special meaning. A disproportionate number is technically not counted as unemployed although not working. Also, unemployment among Negroes is usually longer, occurs more often, and is less likely to be softened by unemployment insurance or savings.
Even when counted as "employed" Negroes tend to be in poverty, low-paid jobs, seasonal and intermittent work, or jobs with little upper mobility.
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Today, Negro family heads (9 percent of total) hold 25 percent of all service and unskilled jobs but less than 4 percent of white collar jobs. Merely finding jobs for Negroes is not an adequate solution; unless their occupational structure is changed they will become relatively worse off.
It is predicted that "if nonwhites continue to hold the same proportion of jobs in each occupation as in 1964, the nonwhite unemployment rate in 1975 will be more than five times that for the labor force as a whole." (National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress.)
It is not merely poverty, unemployment, and slums but this differential in occupations, the gap in income, and the isolation of living between Negroes and whites that contribute most to current unrest, despair, and anger. Even the educational gap is increasing. The percentage increase in school enrollment between 1960 and 1965 showed a substantially higher rate of increase among whites as compared with nonwhites.
Even if we attribute some minor gains in jobs as a result of activities following the 1965 disorders, conditions today in south Los Angeles are worse than in 1960. Median income is down. Segregation is more widespread. Schools, already inferior, are now threatened with cutbacks. Welfare cases have climbed. The number of families headed by women has increased.
Nationally, median income of Negroes as compared with whites rose to a high in 1952 to 57 percent of white income but declined to 52.9 percent in 1963, abruptly rose to 56 percent in 1964, only to decline to 55.4 percent in 1966, thus returning to the 1960 percentage.
This retrogression, as evidenced in Los Angeles, is confirmed in a report of the Department of Labor based on Census Bureau reports and a special survey actually conducted in the area in November 1966. The report further estimated that "one out of every three persons in south central Los Angeles could probably be found to be subemployed," and that between a fifth and a third of the adult males expected (from other statistical sources) to be part of this slum area population could not even be found.
On the surface it is difficult to explain this retrogression in the face of increased Federal aid to education, the Economic Opportunity Act, and other Federal programs initiated since 1960. One might easily be tempted to agree with Nations Business, the official Chamber of Commerce organ, that Federal manpower and anti-poverty programs are not effective and that, therefore, we ought to look to private business.
The Economic Opportunity Act began operating in Los Angeles County in November 1964. Due, however, to squabbling among public officials over control of the local community action agency for a period of several months, programs had to be funded, if at
― 3 ―all, on a provisional basis. By the time of the 1965 disorders, many badly needed programs were still held up pending Los Angeles' compliance with Federal law.
Departing from the national pattern, public agencies in this area established a "community action" program under a state law, the Joint Powers Agreement, designed to operate public facilities such as the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Sports Arena but unsuited for an anti-poverty program.
The Los Angeles Economic and Youth Opportunities Agency is a 22-member board (excluding one ex-officio member) consisting of seven representatives of poverty areas, three representatives of community groups, and eleven (a majority) persons representing public agencies. Industry, churches, and civil rights groups are excluded entirely.
Such a distribution of representation can hardly involve or encourage enthusiasm among private agencies and community organizations in a virile population of almost 7 million people.
There are twenty-one target areas of poverty in our county but only seven representatives from these areas on the EYOA board; there are 76 cities but only one city with voting power; and there are 95 school boards but only two represented on the local community action agency board.
The Los Angeles Economic and Youth Opportunities Board has been aptly described as "one central colossus" which is "administratively and operationally impractical" in a county such as Los Angeles. While the OEO has admitted this by forming several additional CAP agencies, these have for all practical purposes been ignored.
We must also face the fact that if a public agency for coordination is desired, the county government offers the only functional machinery for providing an umbrella big enough to cover all. (Majority of the poor also live outside the Los Angeles city boundaries.) The city of Los Angeles, unlike New York or Chicago, for example, has no direct responsibility for education, welfare, transportation, health, probation, or employment services.
There is no city in America more unsuited to operate an anti-poverty program. And it is small wonder that an agency dominated by this monopolistic octopus fails to involve people or even to communicate with them. The paths of destruction in the August 1965 disorders unmistakably led to the Los Angeles City Hall, and perhaps the Mayor was politically wise to absent himself from the city in favor of San Diego and San Francisco during this crisis.
If the EYOA makes little impact on poverty, what about the schools? Our city schools are highly segregated. Of the Los Angeles City schools, the 69 with the lowest reading comprehension level were all in south central or east Los Angeles. The "absence-from-school"
― 4 ―rate is double that of all city schools and the dropout rate ranges from 36 percent to 45 percent.
Teachers in the area, by the hundreds, are seeking transfers out of these schools. Yet the Los Angeles Unified School District has refused to participate in the National Teachers Corps, presumably because it would require $45,000. Nor has it seen fit to use our Federal School Lunch Program. It is also contemplating cutbacks in educational services of over $12 million this next fiscal year.
Nor can we expect much of the State which is appropriating less and less each year as its proportional share of the costs of education in California.
According to testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee, by 1975 California will be spending almost $900 million per year on police and other functions directly related to crime and delinquency.
It makes no sense that the present California administration prefers to spend $10,000 for each combined juvenile and criminal career rather than on matching money in conjunction with our Federal and local governments to provide more preventive, educational, and training programs.
Various attempts have been made to explain why children in slum-ghettos tend to be low achievers. Originally, biological inferiority was charged. More recently it is fashionable to cite social and cultural deprivation as the reason. Dr. Kenneth Clark in simple language refutes both theories.
"These children," he says, "by and large, do not learn because they are not being taught effectively and they are not being taught because those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching them do not believe that they can learn, and do not act toward them in ways which help them to learn."
Thus, to paraphrase Dr. Clark, the schools that are crucial to solutions pertinent to the war against poverty just don't teach these youths and they fail to prepare them for anything other than menial jobs, unemployment, and dependency, that is, if the children stay in school at all. (Many Mexican-American children drop out merely because of the language barrier.)
It is ironic that these schools should be cutting back on their current levels, maintaining crowded classrooms, half-day sessions, and inadequate instruction for those who stay in school while the same schools are pleading for children not to drop out. If the dropouts were to return, it would appear that the quality of our schools might drop even lower for they would overtax current capacities.
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This intolerable situation in our schools demands that both racial balance and quality education be sought together for they are interdependent and essential. Above all we must stop our schools from turning out functional illiterates whom we must then spend millions on remaking.
In still another direction private industry has made great claims about its accomplishments since August 1965. Its chief spokesman is H. C. McClellan, head of the Management Council for Merit Employment and Training which was organized by business and industrial interests to prod themselves into providing more jobs for Negroes.
This Council claims to have found jobs in private industry for more than 16,000 persons and to have reduced unemployment 50 percent since August 1965. (The claims reduce the public employment office to a secondary ally.) The Council, it should be noted, takes credit for all hired but not for the many who lost their jobs in the same period.
The Council, moreover, dealt with the most enlightened employers, those who were actively seeking minority employees; and the employees hired were the most highly motivated and employable persons, including as an example 63 percent of persons between ages 21-35.
Despite this favorable selection, one-third of those hired had, in less than fourteen months later, quit for other jobs, presumably because they had been placed in low-paying jobs. About 15 percent became unemployed after a few months. Many among the remaining are in jobs which pay less than $2.39 an hour, the median wage rate for unskilled jobs in the Los Angeles area.
Strangely, neither the Council nor the University of Southern California report, which it sponsored, found a case of racial discrimination. Either it dealt with the most ideal employment situations or in trying to prove a case against equal employment legislation, ignored obvious facts.
Even though the University of Southern California experts stated "the findings reported cannot be taken as conclusive" the Council is credited extensively with the "progress" made in South Los Angeles since August 1965. The Council has become "the Great White Father" of the 1965 disorders' aftermath.
I am not suggesting there is no niche for the good-will and cooperations of private industry as represented by the McClellan Council, but we should not be lulled by such grandiloquence into slowing down the drive for even more effective Federal manpower programs, speeding up the war against poverty, and strengthening our laws against discrimination. Getting jobs for Negroes is a special kind of activity calling for the combination and coordination of all segments in the community with government taking the leadership.
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While Mr. McClellan, for example, was dealing with the "guys in the white hats," racial discriminators were obviously not on their vacations.
In January, the Pacific Southwest Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League conducted a job survey of private employment agencies in the Los Angeles area involved in the recruitment of manpower by business and industry. (See APPENDIX A.) Over 86 percent of these agencies accepted discriminatory job orders in direct violation of California law (Labor Code, Sections 1410-32.) Their readiness to do so reflected the general acceptance of job discrimination as being normal in private industry.
Nor is the preferential treatment to be easily explained away on the basis of education and training. A Negro college graduate earns about the same as a non-minority school dropout at the eleventh grade.
In promotions and selections to supervisorial and management positions Negroes will undoubtedly encounter the same treatment as Jews who while constituting 8 percent of all college graduates and 25 percent of the graduates of Ivy League colleges "constitute only about 1 percent of the executive personnel in heavy industry" or fewer than 0.5 percent of the executive posts in major U. S. industry. (See APPENDIX B.) If Jews with all their resources cannot make it, it should not come as a surprise that Negroes suffer from despair and hopelessness over their prospects.
An interesting parallel to the McClellan Council is Plans for Progress, also a voluntary effort by American business and industry. Of the first 340 Plans for Progress firms that received glowing national praise, 72 had less than 3 percent Negro employment. Of those firms with great corporate headquarters in New York City, only 2.6 percent Negroes employed had white collar jobs and less than .31 percent were in "officials and managers" classification.
Now while we may commend the actual job placements the McClellan Council did obtain, let us not believe conditions have been materially improved in South Los Angeles. Official government reports belie the dramatic claims. Using conservative figures, about 100,000 persons are still below the poverty line. Welfare cases have increased 19 percent in the area. In Watts itself "only 58 out of every 100 men were either at work or seeking work in November 1965." Thus, 42 percent of the unemployed was not even used in the McClellan figures as a yardstick of progress to be measured the following year. Nor did the Department of Labor find the dramatic improvement claimed when it surveyed the area only last November.
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Let us face head-on the fact that sporadic violence in our slum-ghettos can be expected for at least another decade for we are limited in providing solutions by the economic and ideological limits fixed by those jealous of giving up power or spending money on such intangibles as race relations, preventive programs, and a better society. It is not that we lack the capacity to avoid a decade of disorders but the will — the will to redirect such institutions as our schools, to provide saturation programs to overcome long existing deficiencies, and to admit the disadvantaged into the mainstreams of American Society. Many public agencies don't even want the poor involved in community action for their own benefit out of an insatiable fear the poor may gain power to change conditions, including perhaps some public officials.
The threat of violence can become worse or the outlook can be greatly ameliorated. And we should not blame the victims of poverty if those who control the choice make the wrong decisions.
It will become worse if Congressional action results in turning programs over to the states and local communities without adequate safeguards for constitutional rights and the achievement of stated national objectives.
The Federal government, for example, has been remiss in the community action section of the Economic Opportunity Act and in such Federal programs as urban renewal which we have allowed to be used against and not in favor of the disadvantaged.
The Economic Opportunity Act, on the other hand, can be used to improve the general outlook provided we are genuinely interested in waging "unconditional war." We who live in our slum-ghettos have every reason, however, to be skeptical of how the war is being conducted. I, therefore, make several suggestions as the very minimum we must do to get started in the right direction.
Local community action agencies, such as the Los Angeles EYOA, should be required to devote more time to coordination and prohibited from operating programs.
They should provide technical assistance to, and encourage, local neighborhood groups to organize programs in their own behalf.
We should strengthen the concept of "maximum feasible participation" or abandon it altogether, for the poor know better than anyone that they have been sacrificed in favor of strongly organized lobby groups. It is pure hypocrisy and it creates hostility for the Federal government to assure participation to the victims of poverty and then, to abandon them in the face of mass pressure from the elected officials of our big cities. Residents of
― 8 ―slum-ghettos know that they are not now being consulted, involved, or "cared about" in a meaningful way. The representation of poverty areas on the Los Angeles board, for example, is meaningless and a dangerous hoax. "Poverty" representatives should at least be enrolled in training programs with stipends so as to be provided with technical assistance and the opportunity to gain the know-how to participate on a more equal basis with the paid and highly trained representatives of public agencies, giants such as Los Angeles City, the Los Angeles Unified School District (the nation's second largest school system), and a county (Los Angeles) whose population exceeds that of any one of 42 states.
I suggest we have arrived at a point in legislative enactments when we should concentrate on building more firmly on what we already have rather than scattering our attention and limited funds over brand new proposals.
Within five short years we have launched three new programs with many overlapping objectives: the Public Works and Economic Development Act, the Economic Opportunity Act, and now the Model Cities program. Each of these Acts has undergone major surgery, two of them name changes, and all of them have been badly underfunded.
The Administration is currently advocating a proposal to provide $25 million for planning under the Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act which we enacted in 1961. Thus, after several years of demonstration programs, we now propose to provide money for planning when there is the immediate problem of a continuation of proven programs in preventing juvenile delinquency beyond the June 30 expiration date.
The recently-announced Department of Labor "concentrated employment" program is another example of administrative machinations in which manpower programs authorized and funded a year or more ago are suddenly regrouped under a new name and a new set of rules that will disqualify certain needy persons in favor of others, result in new administrative costs, and make community participation even more difficult.
We should be expanding such proven programs as Manpower Development and Training, and Vocational Education. Instead of expanding the latter this year, however, the present proposal is to spend merely $50 million in innovative ideas.
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In retrospect it is obvious the War on Poverty is hardly beyond the opening skirmish; and if a massive attack is to be mounted, not only more money but more resources and people must be involved.
One of the ways of assuring this is to require local community action agencies to match Federal dollars in cash or kind on a 50-50 basis thereby executing the original intent of the law.
Such a matching formula would encourage utilization of local buildings, community facilities, technical equipment, and volunteers not now being used since it is Federal dollars and not hard-to-get local money that are available to pay for these things.
Many private agencies, industrial groups, and national organizations, as well as local community people, are anxious to join the war on poverty but are either excluded outright or not encouraged. Recently, to cite a concrete example, Miss Dorothy Height, spokesman for the three million members of the National Council of Negro Women, pledged the resources of her group in rescuing the victims of poverty in our slum-ghettos. The volunteers, the professional help, and the wholesome participation of these women, many of whom are slum residents themselves, would not only represent tangible matching value but contribute the essential elements of indigenous leadership and people doing for themselves. I am confident this example could become a reality and be multiplied many times if local agencies were under pressure to be cooperative, creative, and more dynamic.
A candid evaluation of the role of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) leads one to conclude this Commission is now ineffectual in opening employment opportunities and securing promotions for minority persons. There is a backlog of cases pending for more than 18 months (the law allows 60 days,) and the agency as of July 1 will have had three chairmen in less than two years of operation.
Not only, then, is legislation to strengthen the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission essential "to make the needed progress in equal job opportunities" but the agency must be encouraged to do a vastly better job under existing law if it is to gain respect and support.
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But I am even more disturbed by a recent news item which appeared in the Washington Daily News on May 9, 1967 concerning the formation by the OEO of a lobby group of local government officials headed by John Gunther of the United States Conference of Mayors to screen and "advise" on all OEO programs.
Even assuming the news story may distort some of the actual facts, recent trends indicate a dangerous retreat from the original objectives in the war against poverty. This latest incident, however, is the boldest short-circuit of this concept of "maximum feasible participation" before "the residents of poverty areas and the groups affected" have a chance to be effectively involved.
If continued, the present trend will turn the war against poverty into another welfare effort and a scheme of doing for people instead of doing with them, thereby denying them dignity, independence, and self-respect.
We must not allow this program to become a grab-bag carnival for any special groups or interests seeking to dig their fingers in the Federal till .... persons for whom consideration of the forgotten poor becomes secondary, if at all. It is better that we honestly share the truth with the people if we do not intend to return to the original intent of the Act, which in the enlightened self-interest of our nation's future I sincerely trust we do.