SAN FRANCISCO -- Civil rights activists locked horns with William Bradford Reynolds, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, Monday over what they call his failure to enforce rights of minorities.
Elaine Jones, lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, castigated Reynolds for the Justice Department's refusal to seek mandatory busing or employment goals and quotas to eliminate discrimination.
Earlier Reynolds, who is the administration's chief civil rights law enforcer, said use of such remedies in the past had created 'a kind of racial spoils system in America' during the 1970s.
In an address at the American Bar Association's annual convention, Reynolds insisted that society could not ''get beyond' racism by borrowing the tools of the racist.'
'In our zeal to eradicate discrimination from society, we must not again allow consideration of race to intrude upon the decisional processes of government,' Reynolds said.
Reynolds defended the Justice Department's policies, saying the electorate rejected the Demorcrats' 'concept of race-conscious affirmative action designed to achieve equality of results.'
Instead, he said, the voters endorsed President Reagan's belief that equal opportunity 'should not be jeopardized by bureaucratic regulations and decisions which rely on quotas, ratios and numerical requirements to exclude some individuals in favor of others.'
Speaking on a panel called 'Civil Rights at the Crossroads,' Reynolds said race-conscious practices were ending the dream of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. that children 'not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.'
In reply, Ms. Jones said that 'we would would all like to see a little black boy and a little white boy holding hands and walking down the road together.
'But if the white boy is halfway down the road already because of his color, Martin would be the first to say we should provide a race-conscious remedy so that black boy could catch up.'
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer John Shattuck agreed, calling the adminstration's refusal to use busing and quotas a failure to enforce the laws guaranteeing constitutional rights.
He said the freedom-of-choice practice the administration advocates to desegregate schools was inadequate because it places the entire burden of change on individual students. Under this practice, students are encouraged to voluntarily change schools to eliminate racial imbalances.