A roundup of voices on racial issues

As a white American writer who has lived in East Africa, I enjoyed your April 13 article on the Kenya/African-American journalist connection ("There's more to Kenya than hungry lions"). Ignorance of Africa is a multi-racial problem in America: While whites tend to denigrate the continent too much, blacks often romanticize it too much.

Race, as your story indicated, is not a primary concern for Kenyans, as it is for black Americans and black South Africans. Culture, language, and wealth are.

The term the Kenyans used for the American journalists, wazungu (not wajungu), comes from the Swahili word kuzunguko, or to run around in a circle. That - in African eyes - is what we Americans, black or white, all seem to do.

Frank Bures Portland, Ore.

I am writing to express my dismay over your April 19 article ("Among young African-Americans, an intifada edge") about the Cincinnati riots, which said that "many blacks say that even though the rioting has stopped, tensions are still boiling - and violence could return if the officer is not indicted by a grand jury and then convicted."

While I can understand the anger felt by the African-American community in Cincinnati over the recent death of Timothy Thomas, I do not agree with the use of threats of violence to gain an indictment and conviction against the officer involved. I am not saying this officer is innocent, but he has the right to stand trial before an impartial jury unbiased by threats.

James Black Tennessee Colony, Texas

Regarding your April 16 article "Battered Cincinnati looks for lessons": The rioting and mob violence in Cincinnati is symptomatic of the racial tension that pervades our land. How many more shootings of unarmed African-American males will occur before we begin to deal with the causes of the problems which result in the taking of lives?

It is crucial for local governments and police chiefs all over America to be supersensitive to problems involving their police personnel and racial minorities. All officers should be trained to promote racial understanding and trust in the communities they serve. Racial profiling and the use of unreasonable force should stop nationwide.

Police work is hard, and often dangerous. Law-enforcement officers should receive the best survival and human-relations training available, as well as better pay. Their job will get easier and less dangerous only when we finally get serious about addressing the root causes of our complex social problems.

Paul L. Whiteley Louisville

I think Elaine Coffey deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Your April 19 photo showing her carrying away an upset youngster who was taunting the mounted Cincinnati police officers was truly moving. From the mouths of babes may come the truth, but Ms. Coffey's wisdom and nurturance were critical for containment. How brave and selfless she is.

Ruth Rouse Greensboro, N.C.

Regarding your May 3 editorial "Bombers in the docket": Try to imagine being the parents of those four black children in Birmingham in 1963. When you sent your little girls to church on Sunday, you had every reason to believe you were sending them to a safe place. The monstrous explosion that took their lives tore at the conscience of all decent Americans, and exposed, like never before, the malevolent nature of prejudice. Now, 38 years later, those four young spirits can finally rest in peace.

Bob Weir Flower Mound, Texas

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must include your name, mailing address and phone number. Mail to Opinion Page, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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