I read Nathan McCall's apologia "Dispatches From a Dying Generation" {Outlook, Jan. 13} with some disappointment. As a black man from the baby boom generation (old enough to remember but not old enough to have participated in the civil rights movement), I truly appreciated the eloquence and empathy with which Mr. McCall articulated the world of the younger generation of African-American men. He shares some truly sobering insights about the psychological development of these young men.

What is agonizingly disappointing is Mr. McCall's failure to accept these insights. Consider the following excerpts: "What is not so easy for outsiders to grasp is why we did not follow our parents' lead and try to seize what we could with what we had." "Our parents, we believed, had learned to swallow pride for survival's sake. But my more militant generation seemed less inclined to make that compromise." "All of us knew that working in the system carried a price: humiliation on one level." "I resent suggestions that blacks enjoy being 'righteous victims.' "

Unfortunately, the more Mr. McCall explains, the worse it gets. The sad fact is that he bypasses the answer without ever grasping it. Our parents -- and theirs before them -- suffered far more than we ever did at the hands of "the white man." One can attribute their survival to "swallowed pride," but I call it being proud -- maintaining self-respect in spite of limited options and racist abuse. It was this pride that gave birth to the civil rights movement, and it was self-respect that made the movement nonviolent.

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., among other things, contributed to the militancy and hate that spilled over into succeeding generations and dulled our eyes to certain truths. When you love your enemy, you do not fear him or treat him as your superior; but hate destroys self-respect, it destroys pride. This is what causes a person to be preoccupied with the mere anticipation of humiliation, even to the point of paralysis. This is not a black-white issue, it is a universal principle of human relations.

The bottom line for me is this: Mr. McCall explains the crisis in terms of black rage and denies being a "righteous victim." But he apparently fails to acknowledge that focusing only on this rage and the reasons for it does indeed amount to a martyr complex. This is difficult for me to say, and it will undoubtedly be taken out of context by the unsympathetic, but it is true.

Black people need not define their existence by reference to a stereotypical image of "the white man." If we expand our horizons beyond a simplistic black-white equation and look at what is going on in the rest of the world, it will become clear that blacks and whites in America are no different from the rest of humanity in their capacity for oppression and hatred, or for respect and love for one another. We need only look to ourselves -- and to God -- for the strength to stand on our own two feet and use the talents God has given us. And our spokesmen and our leaders need to stop overemphasizing the anger and start to talk more about the positive emotions of faith, hope and love. In the words of the new mayor of the District of Columbia, our battle cry should be "Yes, we will!" GREGORY SAUNDERS Washington