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Valuing Individuals, Not Judging Groups

Having served as a public educator for the last 34 years - most of those as a school administrator in school systems where African-American students were in the majority - I found your article "Shifting Scenes in Black and White" (Sept. 24) had special significance.

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It is so important to realize that being in a minority is difficult for any group of students. It means "being different" - and that's tough, especially for teens. No racial, ethnic, or religious group has a monopoly on being persecuted. And, unfortunately, when in the majority, that same group will tend to "persecute" whatever group is in the minority. History is painfully full of this behavior.

I was moved by the accompanying photographs of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the "Little Rock nine," the first black students to attend Little Rock Central High School 40 years ago, and Hazel Massery, who heckled Ms. Eckford but later apologized. I have seen Ms. Massery's face in different colors, races, genders, and ages as the feelings of fear, anger, and prejudice belch out from one human toward another who is "different." I have seen Eckford's face, too, on many different people, under the most trying circumstances, and have always admired what I saw.

Dwelling on instances of persecution seems to perpetuate persecution. It rationalizes "getting even" for old wounds. Yes, we do need to be reminded of inappropriate behavior in our past so we don't repeat it - but we can't dwell on it.

I long for the day when people get past the histories that keep them separated and get on with knowing each other in the "now" - enjoying each individual as unique and God-created instead of as human and frail.

We have so much to share with each other and so much to learn from each other. Our world cries for a higher level of humanity.

Don L. Griffith

Decatur, Ga.

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Mideast politics at Turkey's expense

The article "Wild Card in Mideast Peace: Syria (Sept. 24) says "the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] has been largely banished from Syria proper" - but this statement and others are inaccurate in arguing that Syria no longer supports PKK terrorism and no longer antagonizes Turkey.

The latest State Department report on international terrorism clearly confirms that the leader of the PKK himself, Abdullah Ocalan, resides in Syria. In fact, the US still lists Syria as one of the world's seven state sponsors of terrorism. The article's distinction between Syria's support for terrorism within its borders or within the Syrian-controlled Bekkaa Valley is tenuous at best. Experts and diplomatic sources confirm that Syria actively supports terrorists, turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and arms smuggling operations that in turn finance terrorism.

Syria continues its hostile attitude toward Turkey - consider Syria's irredentist policy regarding Turkey's Hatay province. In Hatay, which once was an independent republic, the people opted to join Turkey through an open, fair, and internationally observed referendum in 1939. Still, Syria insists on showing Hatay within its own borders in textbooks and official correspondence.

Syria is also trying to forge a block of Arab opposition against Turkey in an attempt to exploit the question of water distribution in the area. Syria has rejected discussing a plan Turkey proposed for analyzing the actual water needs of each country, opting instead to continue to internationalize the issue for its own political expediencies.

Unfortunately, the United States has been turning a blind eye to Syria's aggressive stance against Turkey in order to not lose Syrian support in the Middle East peace process. This has been done at the expense of Turkey, a country that has been a solid ally of the US over the last five decades. It is striking to see that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her predecessor, William Christopher, paid numerous official visits to Syria, while a visit at that level to Turkey has been expected in vain for years.

Guler Koknar


Assembly of Turkish American Associations

Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed to

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