Black Beauty (Cont'd)

Annette Gilliam seems to want to set women back 30 years ["Black Beauty," Free for All, Oct. 2]. Women have fought long and hard to be appreciated for their abilities, not their appearance. Now Gilliam is upset because white male sportswriters "stammered and stuttered" when trying to compliment Serena and Venus Williams and Brianna Scurry "as women" (read: on their appearance).

I have news for Gilliam. That's not their job. They cover sports. These are guys who, for the most part, are lucky if they can describe hair and eye color. In her petulant demand that these guys acknowledge the beauty of African features, Gilliam seems to think that they would have an easy time describing the beauty of Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams. They wouldn't.

If Gilliam has a problem with the standards of beauty for black women, I suggest she direct her complaints to the movie and fashion industries, not sports reporters.

--Mary Migala

Two Sides, Two Stories

I am compelled to write about your coverage of two crimes in the Oct. 1 edition of your Metro section, "Teen Gets Life for Killing Friend" and "Ex-Classmate Charged in Death of Bus Passenger." The difference in the way these two stories were covered underscores the beliefs of African Americans that the press is biased.

In the case of the bus killing, two pictures of the criminal were printed (naturally, he was black). In the case of the "Teen Gets Life" killing, no pictures were printed, and the article focused on the problems the Montgomery County youth had in his life and in his family. It was obvious from the article that the killer in that instance was not black.

Yes, both crimes were heinous. But do you not see what you do? The white criminal is portrayed as a troubled youth, while the black criminal is portrayed as an animal. Please take another look at the way you are covering the news for all of our sakes.

--Janice D. Rattley

Purloined Apostrophe

Kathleen Avvakumovits [Free for All, Sept. 11] is so "shocked and horrified" to have stumbled upon "it's" for "its"--not once but twice in a single issue of your paper--that she ignores the more crucial question.

Why do we make such a fuss about this distinction? After all, they both "deserve" an apostrophe: the one as a contraction, the other as a possessive. Thomas Jefferson and company could happily write, "The dog wagged it's tail"; so why should "its" be the only such possessive in the language now denied its rightful apostrophe? (Of course, "its" is different from "ours" or "yours" or "theirs"--which are pronouns.)

Presumably some 19th-century self-styled grammarian--the William Safire of his day--proclaimed that the language could not tolerate two kinds of "it's"; that one must henceforth shed its (sic) apostrophe. So he flipped a coin and "of it" lost.

But are they so confusing? Did anyone ever hear or read the one and mistake it for the other? More to the point: Why do we bother with apostrophes at all? If they're so vital when we write, how come we do perfectly well without them when we talk?

--Peter Brodie

The Thinking Man's 401(k)

Just because the financial services industry is ticked off that workers are cashing in their 401(k)s doesn't mean Albert Crenshaw needs to parrot that position. The lead sentence to his Sept. 19 column--"you can lead a worker to a tax benefit, but you can't make him think"--is insulting and accusatory to those of us who've done just that.

Contrary to what Crenshaw wrote, many of us do think about what we're doing. But we also think about how life can deal us unexpected expenses or situations that require money immediately and might necessitate the cashing in of our 401(k)s--things like medical bills or covering expenses in anticipation of an extended period of joblessness after a layoff.

--Leroy Williams Jr.

Remediation for All

In his front-page report on the expansion of remedial programs in local colleges, Steve Twomey unfairly singles out Montgomery College as the chief repository of students unqualified to do college work ["Moving on to College, Going Back to Basics," Sept. 23]. I note that he refers to Montgomery College 10 times and neglects to mention, by name, Prince George's Community College and Northern Virginia Community College, both of which have a higher percentage of remedial students than Montgomery College.

This is not to understate the depressing fact that large numbers of students deficient in English and math are graduating from the high schools of Montgomery County, but I would suggest that Twomey spread the college remedial crisis around more realistically and more fairly--and name names.

--Burling Lowrey