The Irrelevance of Ethnic Identity

In the article ``Rwanda's Displaced Children Finding Homes,'' Nov. 21, one paragraph refers to ``two Tutsi social workers, employed by Save the Children (UK),'' who reunited two children with their mother. The two social workers in question are upset and angered that their ethnic identity was referred to when it was not necessary or relevant. They did not discuss their ethnicity with the reporter and are unsure from where the author took the information.

Ethnicity in Rwanda is, as you know, a vexed question. Many people have reported events there as though they were simply a matter of ``age-old ethnic hatred.''

In fact, it was the extremist Hutu group within the former government that manipulated ethnic tensions and fears to cause the unprecedented genocide of 1994.

Many ordinary Rwandans see themselves as Rwandans first and foremost and do not wish to be perceived on the basis of a primary ethnic identification.

In this case, referring to the workers as Tutsi implies their ethnicity has some significance within the story of the two children, which is not true. Save the Children Fund employs social workers and works with children - from both communities.

In Britain, there is a journalistic guideline not to refer to the racial or ethnic origin of a person unless it has direct relevance to the story or issue at stake. I hope this is also the case in the United States. Don Redding, London Press officer Save the Children Fund

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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