- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

Black and Hispanic activists agreed yesterday that their followers still constitute society's lower echelon and vowed to unite to battle the "dominant culture."
At a meeting in the District sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, seven representatives from both communities attacked America's judicial and political systems.
"There are 2 million people in the justice system being disenfranchised," said panelist Stephanie Cabrera, who works for the Youth Law Center, an advocacy group that focuses on juvenile-justice issues. "Sixty-six percent of those are minorities, and more and more of them are being put away."
Bill Spriggs, representing the National Urban League, added that the blacks and Hispanics who are being convicted of crimes and incarcerated "disproportionately" are not the problem.
"It is the system that is deviant," Mr. Spriggs said. "It has targeted our kids."
The meeting was convened as part of a series of gatherings, coalitions and conferences that have emerged around the country, intended to create a Hispanic-black political coalition since the announcement last year that the nation's Hispanic population grew 60 percent during the 1990s.
The numbers of Hispanics and blacks in the United States are almost equal, at about 35 million.
But there are almost twice as many blacks as Hispanics who are elected officials, about 9,000 to 5,000. In the past 10 years, blacks have also made substantial financial gains, with barely one-quarter of all blacks living below the poverty line.
The sponsoring groups are tax-exempt offshoots of their political affiliates, maintaining their tax status by providing grants and educational programs to students.
The 36-member Black Caucus is composed entirely of Democrats; the 19-member Hispanic Caucus has one Republican member.
The foundation for the Congressional Black Caucus declared $4.7 million in revenues for fiscal year 2000, according to records. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute declared $1.8 million in revenues.
"Together, we are 25 percent of the population, and that is not easy to ignore," said Ingrid Duran, executive director of the Hispanic Caucus Institute. "But it will not happen if we don't partner."
Both Hispanics and blacks have much to gain by supporting several issues affecting them, such as education reform and affirmative action, she said.
The panelists agreed that the country's political system, run by the "dominant culture," was broken.
Mr. Spriggs said the "Republican Party doesn't want the black vote and doesn't want to court it."
He also said the Republican Party will suffer politically if it does not come to terms with the strength of a "black and brown coalition."

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