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Discussions on Race Issues

I appreciated and largely agreed with your Sept. 21 editorial, “Race Panel’s Lost Chance,” about the president’s commission on race. However, I think that it was unrealistic for you to expect a bold, Kerner Commission-style final report from the panel.

The primary reason for this, I believe, is because voices conscious of race have been widely intimidated by the voices of resentment. Observations on today’s racial disparities are often attacked out of hand by pundits and politicians as “racially divisive.” And the commission, obviously trying to please as many people as possible, couldn’t have made the aggressive recommendations that you suggest without being smeared by the same label. In fact, some are already criticizing the final report for being too radical.

At a time when Bill Lann Lee, the president’s nominee for the civil rights position in the Justice Department, can be denied his appointment by the Senate solely because he supports affirmative action (the law of the land), I wouldn’t be chastising the committee for being “more descriptive than prescriptive.” I would be congratulating committee members for daring to keep the issue of race aloft when so many others are trying to shoot it down.

ROBERT PAYNE

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