We are a group of racial misfits who can't agree on something as innocuous as a racial designation. And the movement the Rev. Jesse Jackson is spearheading to officially declare us African-Americans is laughable {"When 'Black' Becomes 'African American'," op-ed, Jan. 4}. It has something in common with the controversy surrounding Mayor Marion Barry: both are steeped in hypocrisy. Whether Mayor Barry is guilty of nothing more than a lapse in judgment is inconsequential. What bothers me is his willingness to inveigh against the white power structure, and the propensity of rank-and-file blacks to join in the chorus. They seem unable to strike a balance between their frequent denouncements of whites and their desire to be white. Its cumbersomeness aside, nothing is wrong with African-American as a racial designation except that the majority of Americans of African descent routinely deny their heritage. Worth and dignity as human beings are tied up in shades of skin color. We have embraced a concept of beauty that excludes that in which African genes predominate. Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," captured the essence of black thinking as regards Africa. "To distance themselves in body, mind and spirit from all that suggested Africa" was her phrase. That said it all. LOUIS B. MARSHALL Capitol Heights William Raspberry's column "When 'Black' Becomes 'African American' " was convincing and well-reasoned. I disagree, however, that "media assaults on Washington Mayor Marion Barry" show that the "racial clock" is turning back. I would argue that, of all segments of our society, the media are the least prone to racism: they will assault any public figure, regardless of race, creed or national origin. Only lose a loved one to a vicious attack, and they will be on your doorstep. Refuse to speak with them, and the neighbors will. All public officials, from the president on down to the local dogcatcher, are fair game. Mr. Barry is no exception. SHANNON M. SOLLINGER Falls Church