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CUOMO TELLS NAACP CONVENTION THAT AMERICA MUST CLOSE OPPORTUNITY GAPS DIVIDING WHITES AND MINORITIES
ATLANTA - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo told the annual NAACP Convention today that America must close the opportunity gaps dividing whites and minorities and replace racial polarization with racial reconciliation.
In remarks prepared for the convention, Cuomo said that despite progress in reducing discrimination against African Americans, the average black child born today does not have the same opportunities as the average white child.
Cuomo said the black child is more likely to grow up in poverty, go to schools that don't offer a good education, drop out of high school, become a victim of crime, live in substandard housing, serve time in prison, be subjected to housing discrimination, and be disadvantaged in other ways as well.
"The American Dream is based on a simple but profound premise of opportunity for all," Cuomo said. "Not white opportunity, not rich opportunity, not lucky opportunity - opportunity for all. Unfortunately, racism has stopped us from reaching that goal."
"The need to overcome racism and unite our people is as pressing as it was 100 years ago," Cuomo said. "If we can't come together, we will certainly come apart."
"Today we need the NAACP more than ever in the fight against racism and for opportunity, fairness and equality" Cuomo said. "We stand with the new NAACP leadership and membership in your struggle to let all Americans share in the American Dream."
Cuomo said President Clinton's One America Initiative and Clinton Administration programs to give minorities increased opportunities for better jobs, schools and housing are vital to closing the opportunity gaps.
At President Clinton's direction, HUD is working to reduce the homeownership gap dividing minorities and whites and is cracking down on housing discrimination, Cuomo said.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in the first quarter of this year the nation's homeownership rate rose to 65.9 percent. However, while 72.1 percent of white households owned their own homes, the African American homeownership rate was only 46 percent and the rate among Hispanics was just 44.4 percent.
"We cannot tolerate a homeownership gap as wide as the Grand Canyon," Cuomo said. "And we cannot tolerate housing discrimination that prevents minorities from living in any home and in any neighborhood they can afford. Our goal is simple justice, as well as bringing our diverse nation together as part of President Clinton's One America Initiative. "
This year HUD negotiated the two largest mortgage discrimination settlements in history with lenders - one for $1.4 billion and the other for $2.1 billion in commitments by lenders for mortgage loans to low- and moderate-income and minority homebuyers.
This past year, as a result of HUD's crackdown on housing discrimination, the Department obtained $9.6 million in relief for individuals in housing discrimination settlements - compared with $4.4 million the year before.
President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest single budget increase in civil rights law enforcement in two decades.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009