Counting Americans by race I have been advising my friends not to answer questions on the census form about their racial or ethnic identities. Now I learn that the Census Bureau, though doubtless disapproving of my method, shares my goal ("Census nods to new views of ethnicity," July 28).

It appears the bureau is reasoning by reductio ad absurdum, that form of argument whereby one shows something to be true by showing that the consequences of its not being true are absurd. In the present case, I (and, it appears, the bureau) want to show that it is true that the color of a person's skin doesn't matter.

Let's assume, on the contrary, that it does matter. It is reasonable, then, to distribute benefits and privileges according to skin color. But now we learn that no two people have the same skin color, and that hardly anyone's skin is but one color. Any distribution of benefits and privileges according to skin color must, then, be random and arbitrary. But doing that would be absurd. Therefore, the color of a person's skin doesn't matter.

Mr. Morrison of Rand thinks that five or six decades will pass before we cease to recognize African-Americans as African-Americans. I am hopeful, however, that I may yet live to experience that next stage in the evolution of humanity.

Jon Barlow Portland, Conn.

As a member of the apparently growing class of racially intermarrieds in America, I'd like to thank the Monitor for looking at the issue of how racial categorization by the government forces us to pigeonhole our children into one category or another.

I am hopeful that that broadening the categories to include a "mixed" category on the census form will lead the government to simply junk the whole system and stop counting Americans by race.

While it would be amusing as the sixth-generation son of Irish immigrants to mark my household as "minority," thanks to the presence of my wife, a Filipino immigrant who worked her way through college and law school after coming here at age nine, I'm not sure what social purpose it would serve.

I don't see any good reason for my future children to have to choose a race classification on a document that will only reflect half of their ethnicity. It's insulting, and the fact that the data are used to support ridiculous gerrymanders makes it all the more so.

Sean Dougherty Clifton, N.J.

Berkeley's free-speech protests

The current struggle of the KPFA staff and its diverse community of supporters to retain control of the station is more than a free-speech issue ("A fight, Berkeley-style, over radio's future," August 2).

The groundswell of support and activism for a more participatory democratic process has pointed to a need and opportunity for the public to become more aware of who is actually in control of our greatest assets. Until now, we've taken for granted our constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech, only to discover that we voted them away to elected officers whom we cannot trust to keep safe the most cherished gift offered by the United States of America.

Angela Sevin Concord, Calif.

I want to congratulate you on your article on KPFA-FM. However, the conflict is not specific to Berkeley; most listeners live outside the city. During the demonstrations some were driving 100 to 300 miles round-trip to protest against what is, to each of us, an assault on the very sanctity of our homes. To lose the voice of KPFA after all these years is a blow so cruel it cannot be described.

Lane Singer Los Altos, Calif.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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