Black conservatives like 'Jay' Parker step into Reagan limelight
Liberals have handed blacks a ticket to get on the train, but it's not moving out of the station," says J. A. (Jay) Parker, head of the Lincoln Institute. Mr. Parker is one of the black conservatives who has stepped into the limelight with the Republican election victory.
His think tank, buried in the small office of his public relations firm in Washington, has been little known until recently. The institute burst into the news when, as part of the Reagan transition, it produced a report charging that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been overzealous. It also opposed setting hiring quotas for minorities and women.
There is only one hope for minorities, according to Parker: expanding business so there will be more jobs. "As it stands, we're all fighting over a shrinking pie," he says. And he places the blame squarely on the liberals for expanding government, triggering inflation (which has "locked us into the bottom rung of the ladder," according to Parker) and stifling business.
He opposes affirmative action programs that give blacks preference over nonblacks, prefers "workfare" to welfare, and sounds the "back to basics" call for schools.
Parker publicizes such opinions in the Lincoln Review, a quarterly magazine that he has been editing since 1979. The Lincoln Institute for Research and Education was founded three years ago "to study public policy issues that impact on the lives of black middle-America."
Raised a Philadelphia slum, Parker holds only a high school degree. He worked as a salesman for a big Nashville, Tenn., insurance company and now heads Jay Parker & Associates, an international public relations firm.
His views run smack into those of top civil rights leaders. Recently his institute issued a rebuttal to National Urban League president Vernon E. Jordan's pessimistic "State of Black America" report.
A review of the facts, said Parker, will "show that the condition of black Americans has been steadily improving over the past decade or more." Moreover, he laid the blame for many black problems on expanding government programs designed to resolve them.
"Public housing and urban renewal programs, for example, have destroyed more dwelling units than they have constructed," he charged. "Urban renewal has destroyed viable neighborhoods, driving the poor from their homes to even less satisfactory and often more expensive housing."
Parker concedes that there is no "conservative black movement." But his small think tank spent about $100,000 last year with help from Reader's Digest, Joseph Coors, and other benefactors, and plans to raise $185,000 in 1981.
Parker keeps in touch with other blacks who share his views, including Stanford University economist Thomas Sowell, who has announced plans to form a conservative think tank on the West Coast.
Although many of these newly visible conservative blacks can be expected to back President Reagan's policies, none has agreed to work for the new administration. Several have been asked, says Parker, but they prefer to stay on the outside.
Perhaps they share the viewpoint of Parker, who says: "I have a fundamental mistrust of government."