The only way to really help the poor is to establish opportunities, as part of the total economic order, which in some way reflect the manner in which the poor immigrants gained a foothold in American society. It becomes tiresome to hear people who were very poor when they got here talk about how they lifted themselves by their bootstraps….Now they think they did, but they didn’t….I am for all kinds of educational programs. But education as we know it is not relevant to the fundamental problem of poverty. We must concentrate on providing people with opportunities to relate productively to the life of the society.
But the economic impact of black capitalism has been—and can only be—marginal at best, and if we are not careful, this approach may actually compound the injustices from which Negroes suffer. We must not forget that businesses are “in business” not to attack social injustice but to make a profit, and that the ghetto represents a poor market to invest in because of its poverty and deprivation.
I maintain that there are two elements in our society which can block Nixon’s strategy and they are the labor movement and the minorities, particularly the blacks. I, therefore, say to the young people in the Socialist League: You ought to recognize that economic progress is the basis for maintaining our coalition—that we are going to win because we emphasize, above all others, the economic issues in this society. Because there is no possibility for black people making progress if we emphasize only race. You can psychoanalyze every white person in the United States until he comes out pristine pure tomorrow morning, filled with love for black people—and that will not provide jobs for blacks or build housing. That is a political task which we must face.
This society never has and never will do anything special for the Negro. That is the reason we call it the freedom budget for all Americans. It is not that I do not know that Negroes are most brutalized by poverty for they are! But I also know that 67 percent of the poor are white and unless we are going to draw up programs which have to do with the elimination of poverty and not concerned with Negro poverty we will not get anywhere in the society.