Lynne Duke's article "Cultural Shifts Bring Anxiety for White Men" {front page, Jan. 1} described the "growing anxiety, even defensiveness and sometimes anger" of white men faced with changes in the racial and sexual composition of the workplace. The article suggested that white males need to "unfreeze their assumptions" through such mechanisms as "diversity training programs."

Certainly, these are valid points. But entirely lacking in the article was any mention that white-male attitudes result in part from abuses in the workplace. The civil rights and legitimate interests of white males are often violated in the effort to promote the interests of women and minorities. These violations typically involve the least "privileged" white males who cannot afford the economic penalties and who for the most part are not in a position to defend their rights.

Affirmative action programs that forcefully promote the interests of women and minorities have been established. It usually is assumed that "privileged" white males can fend for themselves. Relatively straightforward merit system principles have been replaced with far more nebulous criteria that expose employment decisions to abuse. Regulations and laws in fact are sometimes broken by officials anxious to demonstrate their commitment to women and minorities.

Lower-echelon white males often either are unaware that laws and regulations are being violated or can do little other than respond emotionally. Those who respond with official complaints or legal action often are deprived of the information they need to make their cases and are themselves retaliated against by irate, sometimes sanctimonious superiors. Their complaints often must be routed through "equal employment" bureaucracies staffed with people who are suspicious -- if not hostile -- toward white male complainants.

These often-overlooked situations suggest that the attitudes of white males cannot be changed by merely "unfreezing" their assumptions. There must be a recognition of the legitimate issues raised by white males, particularly those who are relatively powerless, if they are expected to be more receptive to difficult changes in the workplace. -- Nick Sundt

Is it really front-page news in 1991 that the mere possibility of not always having preferential treatment makes white men anxious? We hope "Cultural Shifts Bring Anxiety for White Men" is not a sign of what we can expect to read in your paper this year -- more than 45 inches of pejoratives about "fears," "anxieties" and even the "defensiveness" of white men because women and minorities are "aggressively asserting" their rights.

Why are "fears" and "defensiveness" of men treated as a serious problem while efforts of women and minorities to gain their legal rights are "aggressive," "assertive" and "shrill"?

"To be sure," your reporter wrote, "the dominance white men have long enjoyed, especially in the upper echelons of most corporation, is not about to disappear. ... But change is clearly underway." Where is the evidence that change is underway? Where are the data that show the gap between the salaries of white men and women or minorities has changed by anything more than pennies in the past 25 years? That would, indeed, be front-page news.

Your reporter also quoted a white male as saying, "a lot of us white males are social klutzes when it comes to race and gender issues. ... But just because we are offensive or just because we act in a way which is perceived as discriminatory does not mean that we are racist."

Blame the victim again. The problem for white males is not being sexist or racist, it's being called sexist or racist.

Perhaps it's only our assertive perceptions that cause us to "feel" the intent of this article was to engender sympathy for white males in the workplace. Perhaps this article was really only the beginning of a front-page series that will highlight the difficulties women and minorities face in the search for equity in the workplace decades after passage of equal employment acts.

If so, we will humbly apologize for our aggressive, assertive perceptions and stand ready to help in any way we can. -- Marilyn Piety The writer chairs the Task Force on Equity in the Workplace, Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women.