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NAACP president denies shift on integration


Mfume: Group merely discussing issue

June 23, 1997
Web posted at: 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The president of the NAACP is dismissing as a non-story a report that the civil rights organization is considering a policy shift away from support of public school integration.

Kweisi Mfume, responding to a report in The New York Times, denied that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans to change its position from one of advocacy of integration to one of supporting the ideal of "separate but equal."

But Mfume says "there have been discussions" surrounding the issue within the NAACP, and he says changing demographics and population shifts require the NAACP to review its position on integration.

"We have to measure the effect versus the intent," Mfume said. "We are not trying to come up with remedies and cures. It's just discussion."

The Times reported Monday that the NAACP is reconsidering its stand on integration because of continued white resistance and increasingly conservative judges.

Critics both inside and outside the organization have said the group should instead focus on improving predominately black schools.

The NAACP will formally debate its policy on school integration next month at its national convention in Pittsburgh.

The debate is due in part to growing frustration with attempts to integrate schools, including busing programs.

Some black parents are questioning the wisdom of busing, since their children frequently are the ones taken from their neighborhoods.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan have argued that it is demeaning to suggest black children can only get a good education in predominantly white schools.

"The NAACP has always believed in integration of the public schools," Myrlie Evers-Williams, chairwoman of the NAACP, told the Times. "But a debate has been raging as to whether that's still the position we should take."

Evers-Williams said she would still support the attempt to integrate schools, but Michael Meyers, head of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, interpreted her remarks as a tacit approval of some change in direction.

"She is now sending a very clear and strong signal that she is ready to let their policy go by the wayside," Meyers told the newspaper.

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