Congratulations to Lynne Duke for her insightful articles "Impressions in Black and White" {front page, Nov. 11}. It certainly exposes the enormous chasm that exists between the races, especially when one considers that the families interviewed were both highly educated and probably of similar political views.

I would like to take issue, however, with Bob Steck's statement that "All of us whites are racist in ways we're not even conscious of." While I believe the statement is true, I believe it would be equally true if his statement were rephrased and began: "All of us human beings. . ." There is more than sufficient evidence throughout history to support this view, and it might be more constructive for our society to examine the evolutionary and historical causes of racism as it applies to the human race instead of just the white race. Who knows, we might even find that the white race has made a significant contribution toward helping the human race rise above a weakness with which it was endowed by nature. JAMES E. FARR Chevy Chase

Until last year my husband and I were the only whites on the block in a neighborhood we've lived in for almost four years. Living here has been an eye-opening experience. I've met some of the most lovely, intelligent and successful people here, and I've met some people who would reinforce every negative stereotype whites have of blacks. The state of race relations has been a subject of keen interest for me, and I've talked at length about it with neighbors and black housemates.

It's sad how polarized this city is, with whites clustered in Ward 3 or commuting to places like Germantown or Warrenton in their desire (never articulated) to avoid black people, when there's plenty of affordable housing in town. It's surprising how many of our friends -- self-professed liberals -- are uncomfortable about visiting us here. But for the most part, my neighbors have been quite neighborly. At black nightclubs I have always been astounded by the way black people have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome.

I was interested to read what the Dodson-Fykes family had to say about its white neighbor on Emerson Street, which is just a few blocks from where I live. When I moved into this neighborhood, I too felt anxious to not "rock the boat." Now I'm active in our neighborhood association, but I am perturbed at the disproportionate number of whites who are involved, while many blacks who have been here for years are complacent.

Blacks, for the most part, have turned a blind eye to the drug dealing and shootings we've had on our street. It's as if they don't have as high expectations of their neighborhood as whites do. They're resigned to something that's second best, or they don't know that things could be different. But they cry the loudest that if the victims of the crack wars were white we would have stopped the violence. I've tried to rally my street but, frankly, trying to foist myself as a leader seems somehow paternalistic.

It was wrong for the Dodson-Fykes family to think that the man who painted his steps bright blue was being racially inconsiderate. I'm always astonished at the abundance of garish or mismatched colors, the "improvements" that aren't really improvements, the proclivity toward Astroturf and the number of cars rusting in back yards that can be found in our neighborhood of beautiful single family homes built before the Depression. As I walk around the neighborhood, it's easy to see that whites are not the only ones capable of committing aesthetic blunders.

I think it's important to keep these discussions alive and to avoid further polarization. Segregation causes people to grow up with skewed ideas of what the other race is about; I feel it's essential that people make the effort to tear down the walls and start building bridges. All it takes is for all of us to look at the world with fresh and unbiased eyes, to see with our minds and hearts. All we have to do to change society is start with ourselves. BETH ROGERS Washington

The Post has published a very perceptive pair of articles on black-white race relations in the United States.

I know the tendency of black people in nonwork related contact with white people is to hold back, waiting for the white person to make the overture. And when this does not happen, it is perceived as additional evidence of racism.

I have lived in a predominantly white community since 1978, which is the antithesis of the community described in Lynne Duke's articles. I was the first black person to move onto this block. However, some of the neighbors came by to welcome me, and one neighbor even brought a loaf of home-baked bread. Since becoming a resident, I have welcomed new arrivals. We are friendly neighbors, and we readily assist one another.

One may attempt to explain the good neighbor relations on my block as the result of having lived here for a long period, but I do not believe that is the reason. For example, I take four mile to five mile walks quite frequently, and I meet other residents who are walking or jogging. I do not wait for the people I meet to speak first (many of them do, however), and nine out of 10 people who I meet speak in a friendly manner.

The misconception the Dodson-Fykes family has about the reason the Stecks did not exercise their dogs in the community is an example of what may happen when conclusions are drawn on tenuous grounds. What is even more disturbing is the probability that such misconceptions are often shared with others who may accept them as valid.

I do not wish to convey the impression that I believe racism has disappeared in America. No, it is still present, but it is not the basis of every result or action that is not according to our wishes.


Lynne Duke's articles "Impressions in Black and White" brings us a message that must be understood if we are to bridge the widening communication gap that threatens to divide black and white Americans. The simple yet complex message is that blacks and whites see things differently based upon their different experiences in our society. These different ways of seeing things are the logical consequences of where we have been and what it has meant to us racially.

As a consultant and trainer for many years on issues of diversity, I find that when we accept the legitimacy of these differences and respect them, we discover similarities that outweigh the differences. This is the point from which we can explore new ways of relating to each other and working together on the problems that we have in common. In short, we create a new experience that gives us a common base for acting differently. This cannot happen, however, until the differences are acknowledged, accepted and respected.

The articles represent a step in that direction. BENJAMIN ALEXANDER JR. Norfolk