1                    SPEECH OF JANET RENO
5                           before
7                   39TH ANNUAL CONVENTION
12                          COBO HALL
13                      DETROIT, MICHIGAN
14                   MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 1996
25        COURT REPORTER:  Mary Jeanne Henn (CSR-2940)
1   Detroit, Michigan
2   Monday, August 12, 1996
3   Approximately 1:06 p.m.
4             Thank you, Doctor Lowery.  I can't tell
5   you what an honor it is to be here with you
6   today, to be introduced by you and to be here
7   with the Southern Christian Leadership
8   Conference.  You, Reverend Abernathy, your
9   colleagues, have been the true heroes in the
10   civil rights struggle and the longstanding
11   inspiration to me and to countless Americans
12   throughout this nation.  The SCLC has been
13   synonymous for decades with the fight for racial
14   justice, and your critical eye and your vigorous
15   and effective advocacy continue today to keep our
16   eye on the prize in the ever crucial search for
17   freedom and equality.  Your record, the record of
18   so many people who labor in their communities of
19   fostering education, promoting voter
20   registration, working to end youth violence and
21   developing leaders for the future is one of which
22   you can all be proud.
23             I am so very proud to be with you
24   today, but as we look at our accomplishments of
25   the past, there is in this nation a troubling
1   rift towards the politics of intolerance and a
2   tendency to resort to arguments that pit one
3   group against another.  We must stand against
4   such division.
5             I know the value of tolerance, I know
6   the value of diversity, because I was born and
7   raised and served most of my public life in
8   Miami.  When the many different cultures of that
9   city's residents came together to solve their
10   problems, the problems got solved.  When the many
11   different people of that community came together
12   to recognize the greatness of eachother's
13   background, that community was blended into an
14   immeasurable richness; but when that community's
15   groups railed against each other and criticized,
16   we all hurt.
17             Now as Attorney General when I go to
18   communities and see neighbors that are isolated
19   from each other, I do not see strength.  When I
20   go to communities and see neighbors reaching
21   across ethnic and social boundaries coming
22   together to discuss the issues of crime, of
23   improving the education of their children, of
24   strengthening the local economy, I see a
25   healthier, stronger, better community.  We must
1   teach all of our people to rejoice in the
2   magnificent diversity of this nation.  We must
3   learn to appreciate each other's perspectives and
4   invest in each other's struggles.
5             In our own generation, we have seen
6   remarkable progress in our efforts to bridge the
7   gap between the ideals of equality, opportunity
8   and fair play enshrined in our founding documents
9   and the harsher realities of daily experience for
10   so many citizens.
11             Our national journey has taken us from
12   segregated classrooms to integrated ones,
13   from Jim Crow laws to civil rights laws for
14   women, minorities and persons with disabilities,
15   from literacy tests for voting to the largest
16   contingent of blacks and Hispanics ever in the
17   United States Congress; but 40 years after Brown
18   versus Board of Education, racial prejudice and
19   the corrosive effects of discrimination are still
20   with us.  We cannot say that we have completed
21   our journey when even today blacks and Hispanics,
22   and in many cases women, still have a harder time
23   getting a job or renting an apartment or
24   obtaining a loan or getting into college.
25             We have not completed our journey when
1   the unemployment rate for black males is still
2   twice as high as it is for white males.  Even
3   college educated black and Hispanic men and women
4   of every race and ethnic background are paid less
5   than comparably educated, comparably trained
6   white men.  These problems are doubly difficult
7   for the one-fifth of all black and Hispanic men
8   and women who also have physical or mental
9   disabilities.
10             We have not completed our journey when
11   violent hate crimes are at an all time high in
12   this nation.  Yes, we have changed our laws but
13   we have not always changed our ways.  Old habits
14   die hard, attitudes evolve slowly, so we must
15   renew our efforts to prevent the spread of hate.
16   We must renew our efforts to open the door of
17   opportunity so that every individual can share in
18   and fully contribute to America's strength and
19   bounty.
20             The reality of continuing
21   discrimination was at the core of the President's
22   decision to continue to support affirmative
23   action.  Last July the President made clear that
24   as a nation we will not abandon our commitment to
25   equal opportunity, but he also made clear that we
1   need to refine the tool of affirmative action so
2   that it can be used fairly and effectively to
3   help our society achieve its goal of
4   integration.  He directed that we mend, not end
5   affirmative action.
6             At the same time the Supreme Court
7   ruled in the Adarand case that when the Federal
8   Government uses affirmative action it has to do
9   so in a fair and careful way, but in writing for
10   the Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
11   recognized, and I quote her language:  An unhappy
12   persistence of both the practice and the
13   lingering effects of racial discrimination
14   against minority groups.  Justice O'Connor in
15   that opinion agreed that the Constitution and the
16   Government has an obligation to address it.
17             In light of the Adarand decision, we in
18   the Department of Justice are hard at work trying
19   to make certain that federal programs in place
20   are fair and flexible, that there are no quotas,
21   that there are no preferences for the
22   unqualified, that the programs end when their
23   objectives have been achieved.  When affirmative
24   action is done right, it insures equal
25   opportunity; when affirmative action is done
1   right, it corrects for the effects of a history
2   of discrimination; and when affirmative action is
3   done right, it fosters diversity.  A member of
4   the Florida Board of Regents wrote once, as she
5   observed the effects of affirmative action in our
6   state, the developing talent fuels all aspects of
7   a democratic society, and that's what affirmative
8   action is all about.
9             I remember the helping hands given to
10   me as a youngster when I first got my first
11   summer job.  I remember the helping hands that
12   have been given to me along the way.  We are all in
13   this nation, the beneficiary of affirmative action
14   on the part of others to give us opportunity.
15   Because of our efforts to eliminate
16   discrimination and to provide for equal
17   opportunity to all, our nation's workplaces, our
18   schools, our councils of government are all much
19   more diverse than they ever were.  Yet we now
20   face a new challenge.
21             For over 20 years our laws have
22   recognized the value of diversity.  In the Bakke
23   case, Justice Powell's controlling opinion for
24   the Supreme Court held that colleges can take
25   race into account as one factor in the admissions
1   process to promote diversity and to enrich the
2   academic experience of all students; but earlier
3   this year a Federal Appeals Court in Texas said
4   that Bakke was no longer good law.  The court
5   said that diversity was no longer a justification
6   for affirmative action in education.  This is the
7   Hopwood case.  We disagree strongly with that
8   decision.  Last month the Supreme Court declined
9   to take the case on procedural grounds, so the
10   issue is still an open one.  We continue to
11   believe that if the setting in which you learn
12   looks more like the world in which you will live,
13   your education is stronger, and we will continue
14   to fight for that principle.
15             This is a sober time in civil rights.
16   We have made progress but we have much, much more
17   to do.  The Department of Justice is committed to
18   doing our part, to protect the opportunity that
19   every American deserves by fully and fairly
20   enforcing our civil rights laws without fear or
21   favor.  I would like to address some particular
22   initiatives.
23             Doctor Lowery has talked about the
24   topic much on everyone's mind today, one that
25   tests the true meaning of tolerance, the rash of
1   arsons and desecrations in black churches and
2   other houses of worship.  These fires have
3   brought hurt and pain.  Any sort of desecration
4   or destruction of any place of worship is among
5   the most despicable of all crimes, reaching to
6   the most deeply felt of all American tenants,
7   freedom of religion; but the desecration
8   and destruction, particularly by fire, of an
9   African-American church resonates especially
10   deeply in this country, harkening back to a bleak
11   period in our nation's history.  The church is
12   the heart and the soul of so many communities,
13   and the black church has historically played a
14   pivotal role in the organizing efforts of the
15   civil rights movement.  It is for these and many
16   reasons that the President has made it a top
17   priority to prosecute those responsible for these
18   arsons, to prevent future damage to houses of
19   worship and to help communities and congregations
20   in their efforts to rebuild as well as to bring
21   communities closer together.
22             There is something wonderful about how
23   people will come together in tragedy, and to
24   drive with the President of the United States
25   down a little dirt road in South Carolina past
1   what was left of a church which was just a vacant
2   lot with a beautiful old oak tree which had half
3   covered the church standing there, to drive to
4   the scene of the new church and to see that
5   community come together, black and white, was a
6   scene that I will not forget.
7             It is so important that as we rebuild,
8   we reach out across racial and ethnic lines to
9   rebuild the harmony of this nation and our
10   community.  Under the direction of the National
11   Church Arson Task Force we have deployed over 200
12   ATF and FBI investigators around the country to
13   investigate these arsons, one of the largest
14   federal criminal investigations of its kind.
15             Doctor Lowery has described Duval
16   Patrick and James Johnson.  I don't know Mr.
17   Johnson as well as I know Duval Patrick.  Duval
18   Patrick is one of the gentlest, finest, most
19   intelligent people I have ever met, but I also
20   told a newspaper reporter that asked me once,
21   underneath that gentleness is some of the
22   toughest steel I know.  He and Mr. Johnson
23   brought together the FBI, the ATF, Justice
24   Department, prosecutors, the United States
25   Attorneys and community relations services and
1   United States Marshals to forge a coordinated
2   plan for investigating and prosecuting these
3   crimes, and we are working very closely with
4   state and local officials.
5             Our response to these fires has been
6   decisive and determined.  We have responded to
7   over 200 suspicious fires since January 1995, and
8   our efforts are paying off with more arrests made
9   more quickly.  In the past three months we have
10   made arrests in connection with over 40 fires in
11   houses of worship.  These arrests have been made
12   in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina,
13   Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee,
14   Virginia, Washington State and West Virginia, and
15   again it has been an example of state and local
16   officials who care as much working together with
17   federal officials in a partnership to deal with
18   this travesty.
19             Last month the President signed into
20   law the 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act.  This
21   law will make it easier for the Department of
22   Justice to prosecute these crimes and will
23   increase the penalties for civil rights
24   violations.  I commend Doctor Lowery and the SCLC
25   for your records in bringing this issue to public
1   attention and for your help in getting this bill
2   enacted into law, and Congressman Conyers helped
3   lead the way in congress for that passage.
4             We do not claim that these fires are
5   part of a single racist conspiracy.  Our
6   instructions to the investigators and prosecutors
7   are to follow every lead to its logical end and
8   follow the evidence wherever it may go, but given
9   the number of African-American churches burned in
10   the south in the last year and a half, it would
11   be irresponsible not to pursue and investigate
12   the possibility of racial motivations for these
13   fires.
14             On the other side, SCLC and others have
15   rightly raised the point that our law enforcement
16   effort cannot be effective if there is a lack of
17   trust between the investigators and the
18   communities in which these churches are located.
19   In this regard we are working to reach out to the
20   community and to establish effective
21   communication with the affected congregations.
22   Duval Patrick and Jim Johnson have traveled to
23   the south, meeting with clergy and community
24   leaders, attending town hall meetings and working
25   with the investigators.  The President, Secretary
1   Rubin and I each met with ministers from these
2   churches in June to discuss the situation, and
3   I so appreciated Doctor Lowery's involvement.
4             I have directed that each United States
5   Attorney form a local task force to bring
6   together prosecutors with the community to
7   discuss what can be done to force against it and
8   to prevent these tragedies.  Those local task
9   forces serve as a contact point for the churches
10   and for the community.  We are also working hand
11   in hand with local communities to try to prevent
12   these arsons.  The Federal Emergency Management
13   Agency is working with the National Church Arson
14   Task Force spearheading an effort to involve
15   local communities in appropriate prevention
16   efforts.
17             The outrage at these fires has been
18   universal and they have generated a heartening
19   response from our communities, solidarity among
20   followers of many faiths, donations of money and
21   in-kind support and countless volunteers to help
22   the prevention and rebuilding efforts, and it
23   will take all this and more, for the only way to
24   tackle this problem is for compassion and
25   understanding to overcome bigotry and hate.  That
1   struggle must be waged and won in every community
2   and in every heart.
3             The example of the National Church
4   Arson Task Force is an example of the kind of
5   partnership between law enforcement and local
6   communities that we need to continue.  Here in
7   Detroit and around the nation I am watching the
8   local police come together through community
9   policing with neighborhoods.  Police officers
10   reaching out to young people, building trust,
11   going to neighbors, going to residents,
12   consulting with them, identifying the problems
13   and developing priorities and listening to the
14   people.  I see trust building between police
15   officers who care about their communities, the
16   thousands of police officers, and citizens.  I
17   have seen young men come to the Department of
18   Justice to tell the President of the United
19   States that it is their community police officer
20   who has gotten them out of trouble and gotten
21   them off on the right foot, but there is still
22   much to do.
23             Recognizing that the vast majority of
24   the 600,000 law enforcement officers in this
25   nation are honest, hard working and law abiding
1   and fair as they put their lives on the line each
2   day in the pursuit of justice, yet police chiefs
3   and rank and file officers alike tell me that to
4   maintain the confidence of the community we must
5   take decisive action against those officers who
6   abuse their power and deny citizens their
7   Constitutional rights by use of excessive force
8   or harassment.  The Department of Justice plays a
9   crucial role here through the use of criminal
10   prosecutions and criminal sanctions and we have
11   used that authority when the evidence and the law
12   provides for it.
13             In 1994 under the leadership of then
14   House Judiciary Chair John Conyers congress also
15   authorized the Justice Department to investigate
16   and remedy police departments which engage in a
17   pattern or practice of discriminatory conduct.
18   We have developed a comprehensive initiative to
19   address this problem.  The initiative involves
20   both deterrents and effective training and
21   prevention.  We will continue to work with those
22   jurisdictions which are working to improve their
23   departments.  We are also evaluating the
24   information from a number of jurisdictions and we
25   will investigate departments where discriminatory
1   patterns emerge.  These investigations and work
2   with our state and local authorities in
3   developing adequate training programs are
4   designed with one goal in mind, to insure the
5   integrity of law enforcement and to insure those
6   who enforce the law are not above the law.
7             Another priority for the Department of
8   Justice in the civil rights field is the area of
9   fair lending.  Home ownership has a profound
10   significance in this country and is still at the
11   center of the American dream.  Yet many Americans
12   are kept from that dream when they are denied
13   home mortgage financing on account of their race
14   or national origin.  The studies over the last
15   several years have laid to rest the fact that
16   disparities might be explained in the industry by
17   differences in credit worthiness.  Black and
18   Hispanic applicants for loans are being denied
19   financing, however, at a much greater rate than
20   white applicants with virtually the identical
21   qualifications.  Some banks have simply not done
22   business in minority neighborhoods while others
23   charge higher rates or add extra charges to their
24   loans in minority areas.
25             Our effort to address this problem has
1   been a combination of litigation against banks
2   whose practices evidence discrimination and
3   working with the banking industry to reform their
4   practices.  We have brought cases against lending
5   institutions for discrimination in underwriting
6   loans, we have challenged lenders for redlining
7   and other discriminatory practices in marketing
8   financial services and we have challenged lenders
9   for the discriminatory pricing of loans.  We have
10   also challenged insurance companies for failing
11   to offer homeowners insurance to minority
12   neighborhoods to the same extent and on the same
13   terms as insurance was offered to predominantly
14   white areas.
15             The lesson to be learned, however, is
16   that we're telling banks we're not asking you to
17   make a bad loan, but here is some business for
18   you that you have overlooked, and we are working
19   with them to train them in practices and
20   procedures that can insure no discrimination and
21   further business for them.  The results of these
22   efforts have been remarkable in a very short
23   period of time, for we have in part due to our
24   work expanded the availability of loans to
25   minorities.
1             From 1993 to 1994 home mortgage loans
2   to African-Americans increased by 56 percent, the
3   number of mortgage loans made to Hispanics
4   increased by 43 percent and the number of loans
5   made to Native Americans increased by 27
6   percent.  That means that 89,000 more
7   African-American, Hispanic and Native American
8   families purchased homes than in the previous
9   year.  Statistics just released for 1995 show
10   this trend continuing.  We are going to continue
11   to make sure that there is no discrimination in
12   lending and that all Americans can pursue their
13   dream.
14             Voting rights is another area at
15   a crossroads.  Voting rights have always been at
16   the heart of the civil rights struggle.  We must
17   continue that effort to enforce these laws as
18   vigorously as possible.  We face a challenge.
19             In the midst of the debate, or perhaps
20   out of it, the Supreme Court issued decisions on
21   voting rights that have called into question the
22   whole effort to create districts designed to
23   provide minorities a greater opportunity to
24   participate in the political arena.  In cases out
25   of Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, the Supreme
1   Court has thrown out so-called majority/minority
2   congressional districts that provided new
3   opportunities for black and Hispanic voters to
4   elect candidates of their choice.  The Department
5   of Justice defended those districts.  We argued
6   that these districts did not result from an
7   improper consideration of race and that the
8   justifications for the districts were compelling
9   under the Constitution.  The Court disagreed.
10             Even so, these decisions do not mean
11   the end of minority representation as we know
12   it.  They certainly do not mean that states can
13   abandon their obligation under the Voting Rights
14   Act and Constitution to insure fair
15   representation and to provide minority voters
16   with an equal opportunity to elect candidates of
17   their choice, and they do not mean that the
18   Justice Department will cede its responsibility
19   to enforce the Voting Rights Act with vigor and
20   with tenacity.  They do mean, however, that
21   states must pay more attention when drawing
22   districts to certain so-called traditional
23   districting principles, compact, community
24   interests, respect for political boundaries,
25   especially when drawing minority districts.
1             Even with these decisions, the
2   Administration will continue our efforts to
3   achieve equal voting opportunities for all
4   Americans, including minorities who live in
5   states with a history of voting discrimination.
6   The Department will continue to join with state
7   and local jurisdictions in defending districts
8   that we believe meet Constitutional standards.
9             I would now like to speak for a moment
10   to the young people in this audience and then to
11   the adults.  It is so encouraging for 
12   Doctor Lowery and I for you to include so many young
13   people here today as an example of what should be
14   done around the nation.  Our young people are our
15   future.  They are so strong, they want so much to
16   participate, they want to make a difference, they
17   want to contribute to this nation, and to see the
18   young people here today wanting to be involved,
19   wanting to hear what is going on, is exciting for
20   me.  On three occasions, however, in the last six
21   months I have had young people ask me why do
22   people call us villains, why do they say we're
23   causing more and more trouble.
24             I think our young people are just some
25   of the most wonderful, wonderful people in this
1   country and we've got to tell them so again and
2   again.  A very few young people cause problems
3   for this world, but a very, very vast majority of
4   young people are contributing through community
5   service programs that are making a difference,
6   through helping elderly people, through
7   participating in their family, through helping
8   teachers, through studying hard, through making a
9   difference, and don't forget to give them a pat
10   on the back.
11             Now to the adults, and to the young
12   people, because you too can help.  There are
13   children all over this nation who are still left
14   out and left back who will never become doctors
15   or lawyers or police officers or Doctor Lowerys
16   or much else, whose latent idealism will never be
17   free to grow into compassion and action because
18   there was no teacher, no friend, no public
19   citizen like you who by action or example quietly
20   inspired them or showed them how to look up, not
21   down, who helped them to see their state and
22   their own and their neighborhood dreams, who
23   touched the life in some private but powerful way
24   and gave them a reason to hope and to live and to
25   thrive.  We must give all the children of America
1   a future, give them the hope and the dream that
2   every one of us is entitled to.
3             The SCLC has done so much and with your
4   work in youth violence and your mentoring
5   programs you are setting an example for so many
6   others.  There are some people that tell me it is
7   a little bit too overwhelming, but I was able to
8   announce last week that for the first time in a
9   decade both the violent crime arrest rate for
10   juveniles and the murder arrest rate for
11   juveniles was down, and the murder arrest rate is
12   down significantly.
13             This should not give us a cause for
14   patting ourselves on the back, because the number
15   of young people in this nation is going to
16   increase dramatically in these next 15 years.
17   It's not a cause for us to claim victory, it's a
18   cause for us to say look, this may be working,
19   let's insure that it's not a blip on the screen.
20             Let us renew our efforts, let us go to
21   our communities and recognize that a mentoring
22   program for an eight-year-old won't make
23   a difference, we've got to organize our
24   communities so that strong and healthy parents
25   are involved in raising their children so that we
1   make sure our children have proper preventative
2   medical care.  Something is wrong with a nation
3   that says to a person 70 years of age that he or she can
4   increase his or her life expectancy by three years with
5   this operation which we will pay for, and says to
6   the child of a working poor person, sorry, you
7   can't get preventative medical care because you
8   don't have health insurance but you don't have
9   enough money to pay for it.
10             Let's make sure all our children have
11   appropriate educare, good constructive child care
12   during the most formative time in a child's
13   life.  Let's honor the teachers of America who do
14   so much to prepare our children for the
15   technology of tomorrow.  Let us provide afternoon
16   and evening programs, let us teach our children
17   how to solve conflicts without knives and guns
18   and fists.  Let us train our children for jobs
19   that can enable them to earn a living wage and
20   let's get them placed in those jobs.
21             Let us give our children a future, and
22   remember the last words from the book of
23   Malachi:  Behold, I shall send you the prophet
24   Elijah before the coming of the great and
25   dreadful day of the Lord, and he shall return the
1   heart of the father to the children and the
2   children's hearts to their fathers.
3        (The speech was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)