I am writing to commend Roger Wilkins for his July 15 op-ed article "Getting to the Business of Blackness." Mr. Wilkins has done us all, black and white, a service by putting Mayor Barry's behavior in perspective.

Citizens expect higher standards from our elected officials than we always find. Nevertheless, because of Washington's unique place as the nation's capital, the failure of Marion Barry to live up to his early promise as mayor is particularly sad. Not only has he offended many blacks -- to whom he was a strong role model -- but he has also hurt and divided this city. I sincerely hope he will succeed in turning his life around and head in the right direction, but I also hope he will step aside from the political arena and give this city a chance to heal itself.

We need a mayor and a city government that we can be proud of as we go about our business and as we welcome the visitors to this beautiful capital. ANNA-STINA ERICSON Washington

When he chastised black leaders for avoiding truthful talk about black problems {op-ed, July 19}, George Will stated the "truth" that "we know little about how to use social policy to generate the social capital that cures the behavior of poverty, when such capital has not been produced by the nurturing of an intact family."

Actually, many people know that the way to use social policy to generate social capital is to provide reasonable access to a decent life (i.e., a good education, a respectable job and affordable housing and health care). This creates an incentive for the development of competitive social skills (which are redundant when little hope of entering mainstream society exists).

Unfortunately, conservative politicians undermine sound social policy by thwarting legislation to provide education opportunities, a livable minimum wage, equal access to the job market, fair housing and comprehensive health care. And conservative pundits do not recognize the effect, or they just avoid the truth about it.