Racist images aimed at kids: Who's responsible?

As a fan of Japanese animation, I was deeply offended by Carole Boston Weatherford's May 5 opinion piece, "Japan's bigoted exports to kids." According to her, everyone in East Asia holds similar racist attitudes. Even more disturbing, this vast generalization is based not on any sort of comprehensive survey of Asian media, but on two animated characters and a type of toothpaste.

Also, Japanese animation as a whole tends to treat important issues like the environment, freedom, religion, and especially the tragedy of war far more seriously than American prime-time TV.

Jynx and Mr. Popo may well be a hurtful influence on American youth. However, for Ms. Weatherford to ascribe racist attitudes to an entire storytelling medium based on such flimsy evidence is ludicrous.

Chris Upchurch Mesa, Ariz.

Regarding "Japan's bigoted exports to kids": I still remember the Helen Bannerman illustrations in "Little Black Sambo," which was read to my kindergarten or first-grade class in the '50s. I remember thinking that my mother didn't look like Black Mambo, that we didn't look like the characters in the book, even as I was fully and uncomfortably conscious that her lips, my own, and those of my other family members were certainly full. I still wonder about the mindset that insists on belittling an entire race of people. What is the need behind it? It is sad and frightening.

Phelix B. Hanible Northampton, Mass.

As a member of a minority in my workplace, I have felt the sting of prejudice firsthand. I abhor bigotry as does Ms. Weatherford. But as someone who has loved "Little Black Sambo" since I was a little boy, I would like to come to the book's defense. I admired Sambo's courage and resourcefulness. It's a story teachers ought to be read to children.

Dan Gurney Sebastopol, Calif.

I think Ms. Weatherford has unduly characterized - what are really just cartoon characters - as something more sinister. The wonderful thing about Pokmon cards is that they allow children to cross cultural and racial barriers.

Children in Asia can relate to the characters personified in the cards as can children in Europe or South America. To say that the character Jynx "depicts descendants of Africa through the bigoted lens of white supremacy," is a bit much. If an adult looks hard enough at any of these cards, any manner of sexist or racist images can be seen.

Paul de Lorimier San Gabriel, Calif.

Elderly drivers need credit

Your May 9 article "States grapple with grounding elderly drivers" doesn't mention that these drivers are actually among the safer drivers on the highway compared with other age groups, according to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Using "accidents per mile driven" criterion to evaluate age groups is an insidious way to discriminate against a group that actually causes only a small percentage of the carnage on our roads. Most elderly do not drive a lot, and even a single accident can cause that figure to skyrocket. If legislators are really serious about improving safety, they will continue to crack down on drunken and irresponsible drivers.

Richard Whitehead Merritt Island, Fla.

Model marriage?

Regarding "The very model of a modern marriage" (April 26): I am very disappointed. The headline and article basically bragged on the Clinton marriage. Do you really believe the marriage of the Clintons is a model marriage?

Charles Ketz Dallas

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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