Why must you accentuate the negative when addressing U.S. racial disharmony?

In her Jan. 9 front-page article about white Americans' attitudes toward minorities, Lynne Duke wrote, "34 percent ... said Asians are likely to be lazy, 30 percent said they are violence-prone, 36 percent said they are less intelligent, 46 percent said they prefer to live off welfare."

Why not emphasize positive results? The same information, recast, would read, "66 percent said Asians are industrious, 70 percent said they are peaceful, 64 percent said they are intelligent and 54 percent said they prefer to support themselves."

It appears sensationalism is more important to you than discouraging negative stereotyping of minorities. This is truly regrettable, but regrettably true.

-- James A. Baker

What was so startling about the fact that U.S. whites persist in having negative stereotypes concerning Hispanics and blacks?

I was outraged that you would see fit to give this story such visibility. What do you feel is to be gained by this "revelation" -- other than enhancing the ill-will and racial polarization that afflict our community?.

For shame.

-- Frederick C. Green

The survey on racial stereotypes encouraged exactly the type of thinking most of us would decry. It was all too reminiscent of polls to which federal workers were exposed during the '60s. "How would you feel about working for a black/female or whatever kind of boss?" those questions went.

Such questions made no sense without some qualifier. Are you talking about a competent or incompetent black? Does the woman know her job? Without qualifiers, you get worthless answers and little alternative to vague and often negative stereotyping.

If asked if we would prefer working for someone with a size 7 or a size 13 shoe, most of us would throw the pollsters out. If asked whether we would choose a blond or brunet female secretary, some would make a decision -- and might well get into trouble for using irrelevant criteria to make up their minds.

But somehow it is still acceptable to ask people to make blanket judgments on the basis of race. You ask a stupid question and then report the stupid answers as though they somehow acquire meaning along the way.

-- Sheila M. Hollies

The stereotyping Lynne Duke wrote about apparently extends not only to race and ethnicity but to geographic and cultural background -- at least from her vantage.

Duke noted that among 330 of the participants in the survey about racial stereotypes, which centered mostly on white attitudes toward other groups, were "Southern whites." We were not told why a good portion of the whites involved were Southerners as opposed to Bostonians, Californians or Minnesotans, or why the regional affiliations of other white respondents were not supplied. One can hazard a guess, though, that the reporter was trying to tie the negative white responses to an old-fashioned Southern upbringing.

As a native Kentuckian who has lived in Tennessee and Massachusetts, I have witnessed distressingly little regional difference in racial attitudes among whites. American whites tend to avoid coming to terms with prejudice by pinning their biases on members of a certain region with a well-known racial history. Progress in race relations requires all groups to stop pointing fingers at colors, nations or states and admit their own prejudices and responsibilities. -- Thomas A. Sheffer