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Opinion Readers critique The Post: Don’t otherize Kazakhstanis

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Don’t otherize Kazakhstanis

The Jan. 9 news article “Why Kazakhstan is claiming there are foreign links to the unrest” included the word “mambet” with an “s” added to pluralize according to English morphology. This word is an offensive slur, a derogatory term for village-dwelling Kazakhs.

“Kazakh” is an ethnicity, not a nationality. The proper term for a national of Kazakhstan is “Kazakhstani” because there are ethnically Russian, Korean, German, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Uzbek (etc.) Kazakhstanis. The word “mambet,” derived from a Kazakh name, refers specifically to Kazakhs.

As a longtime resident of Kazakhstan with a Kazakhstani and Kazakhstani American family, I’m not surprised that Western media fails to report adequately on what’s happening in Kazakhstan, loves quoting Russian-background experts on Central Asia and uses words that clearly paint normal people of Kazakhstan as so drastically “other” and pitiful. (The New York Times referred to Zhanaozen as “grimy.”) However, in a respectable publication such as The Post, the use of a racial slur such as this in unapologetic context is simply beyond unacceptable. My guess is no one knows any better.

Amanda Kim, Aktau, Kazakhstan

Pros at prose but amateurs at assistance

After reading multiple articles in The Post about the recent snow and people stranded on Interstate 95, I was amazed to notice a terrible lack of information in the Jan. 6 Weather page in the Metro section. There was no real information about when we could expect snow to begin and end that day and into the next in the D.C. area. The report did say, “As an expected snowfall approaches” and “Clouds do tend to thicken toward sunset as the next winter storm draws nearer.” That is lovely prose, but it was totally unhelpful to anyone planning to drive on our roadways or to prepare for snow.

Farther down, there was specific information about what snowfall would happen and the expected number of inches in the Blue Ridge and on the Atlantic beaches. If this information was available, certainly there was more specific information about the metro area and when and how much snow was predicted to fall here.

As my kid walked out the door to go to work that day, I picked up The Post to tell him when to expect the snow. Then, I put it down in exasperation and went to my weather apps. That’s a sad comment. I understand that weather apps can be more immediate, but this information was available, and surely The Post weather team could have found and reported it.

Cindy Nell, Cheverly

An ‘invasion’ of humans’ making

Reading the Jan. 11 Health & Science article “Climate change is helping invasive species take over trout habitats in Montana, study says,” was the first time I had this thought, but I don’t understand why I didn’t have it sooner. Constantly hearing of nonnative species referred to as “invasive” really painted a negative picture in my head, as if they had any control over their situation. I never really thought about what pushed them into nonnative habitats.

The article used the terms “nonnative” and “invasive” interchangeably. It also acknowledged that human activity contributed to the climate change that caused the migration of rainbow trout to the rivers of Montana’s Rocky Mountains, yet the article described the native westslope cutthroat trout as “victims” of the nonnative rainbow trout.

But aren’t the rainbow trout “victims” themselves? They would have had no need to migrate to these rivers had it not been for the warming waters because of climate change. As water temperatures are rising, the ambient temperature for the rainbow trout is no longer that of their native river, but of a different river with a different ecosystem, which they end up disrupting.

I think it’s time we entirely shifted away from the use of the term “invasive” to describe nonnative species. It negatively depicts the species while taking focus away from the real villain in this story: climate change.

Niyathi Vadlapatla, Chantilly

Reconstruction of a mind

Martha S. Jones, in “Nine decades later, a Black scholar’s work faces familiar criticisms,” her Jan. 9 Book World review of the new edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Black Reconstruction,” quoted from Avery Craven’s disdainfully dismissive review of that book in 1936. Some 30 years later, Craven, at 82, came to the University of Maryland as a visiting professor. With obvious embarrassment, he admitted to the students in his graduate seminar that he had long before written a manuscript that dealt with Reconstruction without mentioning African Americans. He knew he needed to rectify that before publishing it.

I used to see him in the reading room of the Library of Congress, always in a suit and tie, poring over the historical literature. When his own book, “Reconstruction: The Ending of the Civil War,” came out in 1969, it cited “Black Reconstruction” as “a pioneer work of great value. Revisionist and Marxist but with clear insight.”

Donald A. Ritchie, Bethesda

The writer is Senate historian emeritus.

A soft focus on the hard right

In his Jan. 9 Sunday Opinion column, “The rise of a pro-democracy media,” Perry Bacon Jr. argued that media outlets should not both-sides antidemocratic extremism. Meanwhile, the front-page article on Three Percenters, “The far right makes local inroads,” gave soft-focus treatment to a school board member loyal to a movement the Canadian government and the Anti-Defamation League consider to be a terrorist entity.

The article failed to point out Three Percenters’ involvement in a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor or their presence at “Unite the Right,” but it did feature homey vignettes of the school board member’s (home-schooled) family. In discussing the school board position, the article never asked how a woman in a group associated with an anti-immigration movement could serve diverse public school students without discrimination, or how someone who supports limitless access to weapons in a time of widespread school shootings would address student gun violence.

Bacon was right: It’s time to stop framing antidemocratic subjects in a positive light. The Post should hold its own coverage to that standard. Ask the hard questions. Extremists do not deserve glamour-shot treatment.

Meredith Baker, Midlothian, Va.

Talking contradictions

The Jan. 8 Real Estate “Where We Live” column, “ ‘Wow’: An enclave on the verge of change,” said the southern boundary of Northwest D.C.’s Brightwood neighborhood is Missouri Avenue. On the next page, the “Buying New” column, “Condos with ready access to D.C.’s amenities,” said Kennedy Street is the dividing line.

Is it too much to expect someone to read the entire (all eight pages!) section before publication to avoid embarrassing contradictions?

Scot Stone, Washington

Cheating non-cheaters

I know that The Post is not directly responsible for the content and integrity of the crossword puzzle inasmuch as this responsibility has been farmed out to the Los Angeles Times syndicate. However, I must convey my deep disappointment with the abomination of the Jan. 7 puzzle. Please be advised that this is the crossword, and there are rules. Not least among those rules, I dare say, is that the answers to the puzzle clues must be words. It’s right there in the name of the game itself: crossWORD puzzle. They need not even be English words, but words nonetheless.

So, for example, the answer to the clue that reads “Italian sparkling wine region” (34 Across) is “Asti,” not “Asetis,” as the whimsical puzzle-makers would have it. This will not stand! I will not count this as a loss against my otherwise spotless 2022 record (such as it is). This minor outrage may not be as important as, say, preventing democracy from dying in darkness or other concerns, but for us happy few puzzlers, those who do not cheat, ask for help or resort to Google, there is a profound sense of betrayal here.

I trust that a word to the wise is sufficient.

Dennis M. O’Keefe, North Potomac

Great work, in focus

Sebastian Smee’s Jan. 9 Arts & Style articles about Henri Rousseau [“A painter letting his imagination run wild”] and Pablo Picasso [“A worthy final volume for Richardson’s ‘Life of Picasso’ ”] were wonderful.

Smee is able to bring art and artists alive. He writes us around a work of art so it comes clearly into focus. He puts the work into a historical context. Smee’s writing about art is a gift to all of us.

Nancy Havlik, Bethesda

Sherman’s lacuna

It’s unusual to find a “typo” in the comics, where the words are carefully drawn in, but I noticed one in the Jan. 2 “Sherman’s Lagoon.” I asked three members of my family to read the strip to find an error. Each of them missed — until I asked them to look carefully at the last panel — that their brains had supplied the missing “as.”

Ron Brandt, Alexandria

The mother of all guilt trips

I applaud Monica Hesse for sharing her breastfeeding journey with readers in the Jan. 8 Style column “Feed your baby, but don’t deny your body.” For decades, birth mothers have been made to feel guilty when they cannot or choose not to breastfeed, and this has to stop.

Science offers solid information about the benefits of breastfeeding while playing down the benefits of formula feeding at the expense of the mental health of mothers in the postpartum period and beyond. I struggled decades ago to breastfeed two babies, and the chagrin I received from birth professionals and social media communities when I quit the struggle led me to become a postpartum doula — supporting a mama’s decision to breastfeed or not.

Lisa Devlin, Silver Spring

Bias and consequences

Again, men get preferential treatment over women in The Post’s sports pages. The less-than-stellar U.S. men’s soccer team got a four-column color photograph on the front page of the Sports section [“Truth and consequences,” Jan. 6], and the reigning World Cup champion U.S. women were relegated to a Page D4 black-and-white photograph.

The sports editors need to come to a #MeToo reckoning.

Sharon Miken, Lewes, Del.

At the end of our rope

Ever since The Post shrank the political cartoon on the editorial page, its tininess has become a daily frustration. Drew Sheneman’s Jan. 10 cartoon was the last straw. I had to bring the paper to my nose to read the writing on the T-shirt of the person hanging on to the two ends of a frayed rope. “Oh yeah! Health-care workers!” And I’ve already had cataract surgery.

Please either enlarge the cartoon or ask the cartoonists to write bigger.

Marjorie A. Harelick, Arlington

After the storm

After a couple of days spent in somber and difficult examination of the events of Jan. 6, 2021, I was almost overcome with joy and relief to see the Jan. 8 Metro photograph of children sledding near the U.S. Capitol.

MaryLois Gannon, Charles Town, W.Va.

Readers can be duped. Here’s how.

I was disappointed with the Jan. 4 Tuesday Opinion essay by Angus King and Michael Gallagher, “Crippling cyberattacks can be blocked. Here’s how.,” but not from disagreement with the thoughts of the authors. Rather, I was disappointed that the essay did not live up to the exciting title on the printed page. The headline led me to expect some surprising new insights. Instead, I saw sensible ideas I would expect from typical juniors and seniors at any high-ranked high school. In fact, some of these top students might have concrete ideas that were not given in the essay. To suggest that the United States work with allies and develop deterrence does not tell me how we will block cyberattacks. The headline was overblown. I still hope to hear new ideas on how to block cyberattacks.

Edward Stern, Bethesda

The not-so-ugly truth

The Jan. 8 Free for All letter “An ugly description” criticized The Post’s obituary for Desmond Tutu for its physical description of the archbishop. Several years ago, on a trip to South Africa, I had the pleasure of meeting Archbishop Tutu. When I shook his hand, I found him “a small, effervescent man with a crooked nose and infectious toothy grin.” The obituary’s grace note made this great man more human and, somehow, more estimable.

Craig Kellermann, Bethany Beach, Del.

Lord of the ants

Like many, I mourn the deaths of prominent actors Betty White and Sidney Poitier, whom The Post honored by publishing front-page articles about them in print editions [“A TV star for the ages, made of precious mettle,” Jan. 1, and “Powerful actor upended Hollywood’s stereotypes,” Jan. 8]. But was the eminent biologist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson not worthy of the same treatment [“Harvard naturalist often cited as heir to Charles Darwin,” Metro, Dec. 28]? His research, books and ideas about how to save the planet and its biodiversity were extremely consequential.

Scientists deserve the same degree of recognition and admiration as we give to entertainers.

Linda Keenan, Silver Spring

Purrfect protectors

Thanks for the sweet, hilarious story about cats holding a blender box hostage by sitting on it [“Cats prove to be furmidable opponents in weeks-long standoff over blender,” Style, Jan. 10]. I taped it to my refrigerator door and reread it whenever I become upset by the daily news, the weather, former president Donald Trump and the Republican Party, and sometimes just by life.

Nancy Scott, Sperryville, Va.

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