I am appalled and angered by William J. Bennett's statement that if we wanted to reduce crime, we could abort every black baby [news story, Sept. 30]. While he went on to say that this was "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible," his original statement produced imagery that sticks in people's minds and is enormously demeaning and insulting.

Mr. Bennett's disavowal does not change the frame of reference he created, one that entered the realm of public discourse and serves as a subliminal confirmation of stereotypes. His status as a former secretary of education gives permission to his listeners to believe and say such hurtful things and reinforces the racism that is still so deeply ingrained in our culture.

Equally revealing is that the response of both the White House and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was to call Mr. Bennett's statement "inappropriate."

Is that an appropriate response to such outrageous comments? This should be a call to action for all of us who care about these issues.

ELIZABETH P. SALETT

President

National MultiCultural Institute

Washington

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Courtland Milloy's Oct. 5 Metro column, "Bennett Draws Attention Where It Is Needed," was mostly on the mark. Black families have serious problems that need the energy being wasted in flailing away at William J. Bennett. It is time we become more active in dealing with our issues and less reactive to what others say or intended to say about us.

Consider the statistics:

Most of the children in foster care in this country are black. Most of the children who are reunited with their families and then returned to foster care are black. Seventy percent of black children in this country are born outside marriage and are more likely to be less educated and more exposed to multiple abuses.

More than half of the children murdered with guns in this country each year are black. Two-thirds of the young people in juvenile detention facilities are people of color, and they are more likely to be locked up than their white counterparts. Twelve percent of black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated. These generation-altering issues need long-term solutions. We need the enthusiastic protesters to be equally vocal about championing our communities.

Family & Child Services Inc. participated in a youth summit Oct. 1 at McKinley Technology High School. We could have used the energy directed at Mr. Bennett to let the young people who attended know that we intend to do whatever is necessary to help them reach their potential.

CHARLOTTE L. MCCONNELL

Executive Director

Family & Child Services

of Washington, D.C. Inc.

Washington