I must thank Carl Rowan for his column on black kids who "act white" {op-ed, May 25}. When I first moved to my predominantly black neighborhood in Northeast six years ago, kids constantly told me that I "talked white." I don't talk white, but I speak correct English. This is how I speak at home and how I speak at school, and this is how I will speak when I go to interview for a job.

I am graduating from high school in less than two weeks, and I am preparing myself to tackle college as well as the rest of the world. I have been taught how to use the English language correctly, and common sense tells me that this will help me succeed. I can't emphasize to my black peers how important it is to disprove and fight the negative stereotypes attached to blacks, including the butchering of the English language. We must do this now or there won't be anyone to do it in the future. Mr. Rowan is right: ignorance is the killer, and too many black teens are the victims. A. WILLIAMS Washington

The trouble with most critics of black English is that they ignore the value of the vernacular for blacks and black communities. Carl Rowan is no exception.

It's true that black youngsters need to learn and use standard English in order to function and be successful in school and in American society. But to say that black youngsters' resistance to standard English is a "new kind of racism" is to admit ignorance of the history and cultural importance of the black vernacular.

Black English is a cultural communication tool that helps lead to a sense of black solidarity. Many black youngsters look for approval outside the classroom. Their resistance to standard English is more a way of establishing themselves as black than a way of making a statement against whites.

Mr. Rowan's intentions in seeking black professionals as role models for black youngsters is a good start. However, it will take more than a successful black accountant, doctor or dentist to convince a 13-year-old black that he can be proud of speaking and writing standard English well.

A child must learn from his family and friends -- people he trusts, respects and has daily contact with -- that academic achievement and standard English are not evils that threaten to strip him of his cultural identity, that they are tools that will help him function more successfully in society.

We must also teach black youngsters that black English is useful, valuable, even beautiful. But before we can do that, we must believe it ourselves. MALIA ZOGHLIN Washington