Rep. Pete Stark's (D-Calif.) verbal assault on Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan is representative of racism in its most insidious form. Dr. Sullivan, an African American, a Republican and a supporter of his political party's stance on abortion, has apparently committed the sin of opposing Rep. Stark's extreme liberal views. Rather than engage in debate on the matter, Rep. Stark has chosen to raise the specter of race in an arena in which race should be irrelevant.

It is a tragedy that we must live in a nation where every action of African-American officeholders must be filtered through the prism of race. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that liberal white members of this society fear no approbation for challenging the ''blackness'' of those African Americans who have the temerity to engage in independent thought that might lead them to adopt positions that are at variance with current liberal fashion.

Rep. Stark, in calling Dr. Sullivan ''a disgrace to his race'' calls into question the ability of the nation's African-American community to engage in thoughtful debate on the issues confronting our society. Like every other ethnic community and the society as a whole, the African-American community is qualified to debate the issues of the day and reach divergent conclusions. To assert the necessity of the African-American community to reach consensus on all issues is to single it our for special treatment that is redolent of the worst vestiges of slavery.