Lesley Crosson is black and female, but she is not impressed by Ayatollah Ruholiah Khomeni's latest move.
"As a black person, I find it insulting that blacks are being released for a politial reason," said the 28-year-old Boston radio editor. "If blacks are for sale, I hope it's not for such a cleap price and to someone as repugnant as Ayatoliah Khomeini."
If the Iranian government hopes to gain support in the United States by releasing about a dozen women and blacks, while keeping other Americans hostages, those hopes seem in vain. The reaction of women and blacks -- both leaders and ordinary citizens interviewed across the country -- is outraged, not gratitude.
"No, no, no!" said the Rev. Imagene stewart, a black minister. "I am an American first. This is where my allegiance is. I happen to be black, but, number one, I am an American."
The idea of Third World solidarity seems irrelevant to the man or woman on the street. On the contrary, the sentiment that is most frequently expressed sounds more like old-fashioned American patriotism. It is a defensive reaction, perhaps, but it transcends the boundaries of color, class and sex.
The selective release of hostages seems less an act of mercy than of cynicism.
"Of course we are pleased that any American being released," said Ronald H. Brown, vice president of the National Urban League. "but there is not one size of support or sympathy for the Ayatollah in the black community. I'd be surprised if you find any support among any black groups for his outrageous and illegal actions."
Carol Silverthorn, executive director of the National Women's Political Caucus, said, "He should release them all. We find the whole situation as deplorable as everyone else in this courntry. I can't imagine anyone who would have sympathy with him.
And the Rev. Jackson, in a phone interview from Chicago, stated firmly. We do not identify with the shah-like tactics now being used [by the Iranians]."
The iranian student demonstrations here have angered women and blacks as much as any American. For some time, blacks have grumbled that Iranian and other foreign students are displacing them in American universities. And Iranians here are throught to be clannish and just as prone to anti-black racism as are some whites.
Stewart, head of the American Women's Clergy Association and a preacher in Washington, remembers when she was a student at Washington Tech. p
"There were Iranians there and they acted-as if we blacks didn't exist," she said. Iranian cab drivers wouldn't even pick up blacks."
At the Marine Barracks on Eighth Street SE, the young enlistees yesterday were out for their daily runs. A few of them stopped to chat, and most of them said the same thing.
"They shouldn't hold anybody hostage," said a 20-year old black marine.
"A person is a person no matter what color."
And a black sergeant, who would identify himself only as "Harvey," said, "Whether black or white, we're Americans. They're using human beings as hostages just to get the shah."
And across the Potomac, Flora Crater, 65, founder of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women, dismissed the ayatollah's release of women hostages as an act of hypocrisy. "There's no way women would support what that man's doing. He's been repressing women, according to feminists who've been to Iran recently."
Women across the country echoed her reaction. As Joyce Jorden, 28, a Phoenix travel agent, put it: "As long as there's one American left as a hostage in Iran, there isn't going to be any change in emotion -- even if they just keep the janitor. The American people are just really humiliated and angry."
Sue Ellis, 28, a fifth-grade teacher in Denver, remarked. It's a terrible thing, but I think it's helping us develop a sense of nationalism. A lot of Americans are angry to see other Americans being abused in a foreign country."
And in Los Angeles, Morris L. Keyes paused for a moment from his job pumping gasoline. Although black, Keyes feels no relief that the black hostages are being set free. "I'm a humanitarian," he said. I'm not concerned with a black-white thing. They never should have done it in first place."
On the other side of the continent, Sheldon Ramsey a black soldier and Baltimore native, saw the Iranian move in an ironic light. "Why single them out because of color and sex?" he said. That's being prejudiced, it's totally unfair."
If Americans seem united in their hostility toward the new government, they are hardly unanimous in their solutions to the problem.
Some, like Harvey, the black marine sergeant, said that if he were in charge he'd do "just what Jimmy Carter is doing now -- sit and wait it out. We're not responsible for the shah. He's free to get medical care where he wants.
But across the street, Kent Butler, a black marine corporal, said, "We should send the shah back to Iran. I don't know if he's sick or whether he's making deals with people. If he is sick, why don't we just send the doctors over there with him?"
The two reactions reflect the frustration of many, few feel sympathy for the shah and his bloody history of repression in Iran but now that he is here, can we throw him out to placate an equally tyrannical despot?
As Jesse Jackson put it, "The shah was to Iran what Hilter was . . . almost no family didn't suffer . . . He is a war criminal. He should be tried before an international court. The money he confiscated should be given back."
But Jackson, a Christian minister, adds, "If he is dying of cancer, in the name of humanity, we should not put him out."