Much has been written lately about the desirability of an African-centered curriculum in our public schools. The interviews with the white and the African-American families by Lynn Duke {"Impressions in Black and White," Nov. 11} implicitly raise this issue in an important way.

Based on the story, it appears that the white couple view African Americans much as their 5-year-old daughter does -- as people who happen to have a different skin color. Brown skin becomes a way of identifying victims of oppression who need affirmative action points, because they are not equally skilled in the game of life. Apparently this applies to Zairian diplomats, the children of cross-ethnic marriages in Chevy Chase or their own domestic servants -- the "blacks" in the Stecks' lives. Whether the interview accurately depicts the outlook of the Stecks or not, it is no secret that this is how many whites do see black people, and it is no wonder, then, that they are uncertain how to "make friends."

As for the African-American couple, despite highest certification by the guardians of Euro-American culture, they find that their white colleagues do not recognize them as cultural equals. For Leroy Fykes and Shireen Dodson, survival against white chauvinism depends on "racial pride"; if they had it to do over again, says Mr. Fykes, they would send their son to Roots, an African-centered private school, because "black boys need a firm foundation in who they are."

It is time to recognize that a critical component of white chauvinism is the denial of African Americans as an ethnic group -- the tendency to view them as a color-coded race of victims. Given the demography of the Washington area, a call for bicultural education (Afrocentric and Eurocentric) would seem appropriate. Let the Stecks' daughter and the Dodson-Fykes' son learn together about the history and culture of African Americans -- even as it predates the experience with U.S. slavery and goes beyond our borders. Let us valorize the contributions African peoples have made to our country's identity and to the world.

For many years, our society has demanded that members assimilate in order to compete. But as Leroy Fykes and Shireen Dodson well know, assimilation does not mean acceptance. As we applaud Ukrainians, Czechs, Lithuanians and others for their struggle toward national identity and self-determination, it is time to create conditions for the cultural survival of African Americans. This is the way to work toward abolishing the color line -- a goal that I believe most of us have in common. AUGIE ELLEN Washington