A questioner asked Julian Bond about violent crime among young black males, and the NAACP chairman said the recent spate of deadly shootings by white youths in rural and suburban schools worry him as much.

"I'm worried about suburban kids," Bond said in a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday. "I'm a little afraid to go into the suburbs," Bond, who lives in Washington, told his chuckling audience at the National Press Club.Bond said if it were black children pulling the triggers in the deadly attacks on classmates, the shootings would be portrayed as another "pathology" plaguing minority children.

In his address, Bond said civil rights gains won in the 1950s and '60s are under attack. Progressive groups must combine forces to fight back, he said.

"We meet at a time when the leadership of the House and Senate is more hostile to civil rights than in recent memory," Bond said, citing battles over affirmative action and other subjects touching on race.

Both houses of Congress deserve failing grades on civil rights, said Bond, elected chairman in February of the nation's largest and oldest civil rights group. On a 100-point scale, he said, the House earned 21, the Senate 36.

The problems are widespread, he said, and mentioned allegations of racism involving Denny's restaurants and Texaco.

"Everywhere we see clear racial fault lines, which divide American society as much now as at anytime in our past," Bond said.

He credited affirmative action with swelling the black middle class and said recruitment of minority candidates has "removed preferential treatment whites have received through history."

"Without affirmative action, both white and blue collars around blacks would shrink, with a huge depressive effect on black income, employment, homeownership and education," Bond said.

He dismissed the notion that positions gained through affirmative action stigmatize blacks. "Do you ever hear that argument made about the millions of whites who got into college as a legacy because Dad is an alumni? Or the whites who got good jobs because Dad was president of the company?" he asked.

The NAACP is working with labor groups, women's organizations and religious leaders to fight a ballot proposal in Washington state to end affirmative action there, he said.