While the Senate overwhelmingly condemned bigoted remarks made by an aide to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, there has been virtual silence among senators about a comment by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) that deeply offended some blacks.

Black lawmakers, who have joined in the widespread condemnations of the Farrakhan aide, have questioned why there has been no repudiation of Hollings, who said in a December interview that Africans attend international trade conferences so they can "get a good square meal" rather than "eating each other."

The two episodes have spurred black politicians to question whether they face greater pressure than their white colleagues to denounce offensive statements by a member of their race. And politicians of both races are rethinking how and when to condemn those who make repugnant remarks without contributing to racial polarization.

"We all must be measured by the same standard of decency," said Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), the only black member of the House Democratic leadership. "If we fail to speak out {against insensitivity every time} we are condoning it."

Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) said this week he was willing to condemn Hollings "right now" for likening African leaders to cannibals. But Mack added: "Do you convene the Congress {for an official rebuke} every time someone makes a statement you don't agree with? I don't think so . . . . But I guess there is a threshold. And it's hard for me to define what that threshold is."

The Senate, some have argued, is an exclusive club in which members are reluctant to pass judgment on one of their own.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) laughed and said he had nothing to say when asked about Hollings's remark. Sen. Howell T. Heflin (D-Ala.) said he'd "just have to think about it." Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), while saying no group of people deserved to be maligned, added: "I'm not going to go any further than that. I have too many important things to do." Other senators justified their "No comment" by saying they were not familiar with Hollings's remark.

"It's a double standard," said Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), noting the Senate's 97 to 0 vote Wednesday to condemn Khalid Abdul Muhammad for a speech the resolution said was "false, antisemitic, racist, divisive, repugnant and a disservice to all Americans."

Kerrey said white elected officials "very often aren't as troubled" about racially insensitive remarks made by other whites. "We have to be very careful."

But like most other senators interviewed this week, Kerrey suggested that Hollings's off-the-cuff comment could not be compared to Muhammad's monologue at Kean College in New Jersey on Nov. 29, 1993. Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) described Hollings's comment as "an inadvertence," as opposed to Muhammad's "open, calculated, well-formulated policy statement."

"I see a distinction," Sasser said.

Black elected officials, however, recall that Jesse L. Jackson's off-the-cuff comment referring to New York as "Hymietown" was widely attacked, setting back his 1984 Democratic presidential campaign and dogging him for years.

"In the black community we have a saying," said Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins (D-Mich.), dismissing the arguments of Sasser and other senators. "Justice is Just Us."

In his speech, Muhammad attacked gays, called the pope "that cracker," talked of killing the white women and children of South Africa, made demeaning references to black social commentators and labeled Jews the "blood suckers of the black nation." Farrakhan repudiated Muhammad's remarks Thursday and announced the aide no longer would represent him as a Nation of Islam spokesman.

According to the Greenville, S.C., News last Dec. 15, Hollings was criticizing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that was being negotiated in Geneva when he told reporters: "Everybody likes to go to Geneva. I used to do it for the Law of the Sea conferences and you'd find these potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other, they'd just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva."

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called on Hollings to publicly apologize and for other leaders and lawmakers to condemn the remarks. The NAACP joined a growing chorus yesterday with a statement imploring white politicians to condemn racism, bigotry and antisemitism by whites with the same force black leaders repudiated Muhammad.

Hollings on Thursday apologized for a remark he acknowledged "wasn't in good taste." But he said that the comment was a joke and not "any diatribe."

"They're trying to confuse and diffuse," Hollings said of black lawmakers who have complained of a double standard. He added: "Tell them if they don't like these jokes, fine."

Hollings's comment about African potentates was not the first utterance that riled minorities. In 1987, he described the NAACP as part of a "lynch mob" out to kill the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork. In 1986, Hollings was quoted by a South Carolina television reporter as using the word "darkies" in an off-the-air interview; a spokesman said the senator did not recall using the term. And during his 1984 presidential bid, Hollings referred to supporters of then-Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, as "wetbacks."

Hollings also has called Jackson's Rainbow Coalition "the blackbow coalition" and referred to Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) as "the senator from B'nai B'rith."

While the latest Hollings remark received scant attention, Muhammad's discourse was chronicled by nationally syndicated columnists and given publicity by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which placed a full-page ad excerpting the speech in the New York Times.

Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), the lone African American in the Senate, noted in a floor speech this week that others have made statements "on a lot of different occasions" and "of the same kind of import." It was time, she implored colleagues, to heal wounds and start addressing the conditions that give rise to such "evil expression."

A group of black and Jewish lawmakers held a news conference Thursday to show they are unified on fighting bigotry. "We need now to end the polarization that's arisen around this issue and start the healing," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said.