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Baltimore unrest: For these readers, issues of race and violence are personal

Several letters on Baltimore ask important, unsettling questions and relate personal experience

Most of the letters sent to us on the uprising in Baltimore have come from readers far removed from the action who have spoken largely in abstractions, advocating principles rather than offering personal experience: Violence is unacceptable, policing needs to change, and racism in America must be addressed.

Those opinions are valuable, as dispassionate reasoning must play a key role in any national debate. But among the letters is a much smaller, important subset from readers who write stirringly of close-to-home experiences with racism or violence. Their letters add insight to the discussion and are worth a read.

Sarah Maze of Orange calls for national self-examination on racism:

One African American letter writer said violence is unacceptable. I am also an African American woman, and I have been stopped by police officers for bizarre reasons. Passengers in my car have been searched without cause. When I have made appropriate complaints, I have been told by supervising officers that the incidents didn't occur.

I can understand the rage in response to police officers abusing power and treating African American and Latino citizens as subhuman. Perhaps, rather than being critical of the violence, we should confront the issue of how minority people have been treated in demeaning ways.

Smartphone cameras have captured only a small portion of the day-to-day indignities. The problem will not be solved by body cameras or more minority officers. We must examine our country's lack of a moral core on matters of race.

Irvine resident Norman E. Ewers, a retired Marine Corps colonel, argues for reparations:

I submit that it is not Freddie Gray who is at the center of the "unrest." It is generations of abuse of black Americans by white Americans that has deprived the blacks of their basic human rights.

My Cherokee Nation ancestors, after being removed from their Georgia homes and confined to a reservation in Oklahoma, were partially compensated for their loss when their new home was opened to colonization by white Americans. The offer of compensation for past abuse of black Americans by white Americans is what Congress should offer if a greater "unrest" is to be avoided.

Linda Loding of Pasadena says coverage of the Baltimore riots conjures painful memories:

It's been 23 years since my son Kevin died in the Los Angeles riots. Every year around the anniversary, the media bring up the riots — and frankly, it just hurts.

Now it's all back on the front pages of the newspaper due to the riots in Baltimore. One Times article mentioned that a shopping center near the corner of Manchester and Vermont avenues in South L.A. is being built because locals have had to travel to shop since the original stores were burned in 1992. Sorry, but those stores shouldn't have been looted and burned down in the first place.

My son died trying to put out a fire that someone else started. How fair is that?

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