`Exiles Among Us'

I want to commend Kristin Helmore and Karen Laing for their thorough six-part series ``Exiles Among Us: Poor and Black in America'' [Nov. 13, 18, 19, 20]. I've followed minority issues closely over the past 10 years, and this is one of the most comprehensive and balanced reports I've seen. The series showed clearly that support by a few individuals can make a difference. Also, the authors took great pains to counter many common myths: that blacks don't want to work, that many are content to remain on welfare, that parents don't care about their children's education, and so forth.

Neal Menschel's excellent photographs strongly illustrated the frustrated dignity of many black Americans. Also, the graphs clearly supplemented the statistics quoted in the articles. Lyn Kendrick Oakland, Calif.

I must confess that as I started reading ``Exiles Among Us'' I had many preconceptions - prejudices, actually - which the articles melted away. The series was written with such compassion and understanding. A sense of real tenderness pervaded each piece, and each was also beautifully written. Susan Hobbs Alexandria, Va.

The article ``What's wrong with welfare - and a new push to change it'' [``Exiles among us,'' Part 6, Nov. 20] mentions the ``stereotype of black mothers on welfare'' but projects its own stereotype of the same issue. The article begins with the statistic that ``44 percent of welfare recipients are black.'' Why doesn't it try to dispel this stereotype by quoting how many of these recipients are white? Instead it added to the misled cause of those whom it was trying to inform.

I've read that the majority of those receiving this type of government assistance are white. No statistics are cited for the general population - only those regarding blacks, women, and children.

Why weren't positive approaches mentioned - such as the program already in existence that trains those at the poverty level in a skill so that they can learn to help themselves? Or the need for child-care assistance so mothers who want to work can do so without leaving their children alone at home because they can't afford a sitter? Gail Y. Kirby Suitland, Md.

``Exiles Among Us'' should be required reading in schools, churches, and citadels of learning across the country. The series went beyond your usual fine and insightful reporting to reach a level that can affect mind-locks. My congratulations to the reporters, photographers, and editors for conveying the enormity of the problem and for stating, between the lines, the cure. Alberta Cohen Quakertown, Pa.

I read with compassion and interest your series ``Exiles Among Us.'' I teach in an inner- city college and am well aware of the discouragement and despair there. However, the authors write several times that lack of employment for inner-city people is caused by racism. There is considerable evidence against this simple analysis - a large and growing black middle class.

In the first installment a black Jamaican taxi driver who put his several children through college is quoted. New York City fleet taxi owners report 20 percent of their fleets are idle and desperate for drivers. If that man from Jamaica got a job, why should we think racism the reason the others did not? Barry R. Gross Philosophy Dept. York College City University of New York, Jamaica, N.Y.

Your series of articles addressing the onerous problems of black Americans, ``Exiles Among Us: Poor and Black in America,'' has been wonderful. When will the powers that be in America do something about this problem that is damaging our society? Elizabeth Horrigan Clearwater, Fla.

The great need is for society to see each person in a more positive manner and to help people help themselves. When will our government develop programs that teach people to take pride in their own abilities? Thanks for making me do some positive thinking about how to be of service in my community. Donna Vausbinder Topeka, Kan.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address to ``Readers Write.''

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