Mayor Marion Barry's statement in an interview {front page, May 30} -- that his smoking of crack cocaine at the Vista was ''something that, at worst, was harmful to me personally'' -- does not speak well of the two rehabs he attended. Nor does it bode well for the recovery of Marion Barry the man. Most rehabs do not share his belief that such behavior is merely, or mostly, self-injurious.

As one with a background in counseling and 12-step programs, I can attest that such a myopic view of ''harm'' is not espoused by any reputable rehab, nor by the therapeutic community at large. It is almost axiomatic, in fact, that one's capacity for recovery parallels one's ability to comprehend the consequences of his behavior on others -- family, friends, co-workers, community, etc. -- and to take positive actions to make amends in these areas. The A-B-C's -- alibiing, blaming and condoning -- must be overcome. This is part of the ''house cleaning'' process, which is part of the 12 steps of recovery.


It is a crime for the mayor of Washington to be a poor role model -- a crime against black children.

My sixth-grade Afro-American students are intelligent, dynamic and beautiful kids struggling to make sense of their pre-adolescent world. That world has been enormously complicated by Mayor Barry.

In class we keep daily track of world events. Mr. Barry is the students' main event. They see him in the newspapers and on TV -- a black man at the helm. To them he has the power to know how it is and can be done. But the "it" embarrasses them daily: his proposed D.C. government health spa, Effi in Cannes, the Riverfest cruise and crack at the Vista, which he claims he was forced to smoke. "He's just 'dissin' us," a student said the other day.

What is most confusing and destructive is the racism he alleges in trying to save himself. My students have white authority figures in their lives who love and celebrate them. These people assure the students that while racism exists it can be overcome. Mr. Barry was a perfect example.

So the mayor should not "diss us" any more. He should tell my students that he has retired because the air on top of power peaks is rare and he got dizzy and lost his way. We've been studying it. My students would understand.