In response to your Dec. 23 editorial "GOP Lessons, Post Lott": In your heartfelt explanation of how it is important for the GOP to reach out and connect to African-Americans, you left out one very important point: Which African-Americans is the GOP concerned with attracting?
African-Americans are such a diverse group economically, culturally, and socially. Not all "blacks" come from poverty or need to be rescued from welfare. Plenty are living above the poverty level, enjoying a middle- or upper-class lifestyle. They have healthcare and can afford the best education for their children.
Many of the black elite have a Democratic affiliation. If the policies to benefit this affluent and semi- affluent subculture cater only to those who need welfare reform, the GOP has lost the attraction of African-American middle and upper classes. The GOP should be aware that most of the recipients of the US welfare program are Caucasian, thus it would be reforming the white underclass, if that were to become its main focus.
Issues based on reforming and sustaining affirmative action would probably be the best way to attract the majority of African-Americans in lower, middle, and upper classes. Many African-Americans are more concerned with attaining and holding jobs and homes fairly than they are with reforming the US welfare system.
Regarding "GOP Lessons, Post Lott": There is indeed a marked difference between Republicans and Democrats over their approach to race issues. The social experimentations of Democrats have had a devastating effect on family unity - especially among African-Americans.
President Bush plans to improve the nation's welfare system by strengthening families and encouraging self-reliance. His faith-based initiatives are welcomed by ministers who want to address more actively such issues as teen pregnancy, AIDS, domestic violence, and homosexuality. The same can be said of school-voucher programs.
African-Americans have strong roots in the Christian faith, and it is high time their leaders in Congress reflect those values and deal seriously with the real problems confronting African-American families.
In response to the Dec. 26 Opinion piece "Recognizing the Lott in ourselves": I am impressed by Michael Alvear's candor, confessions, and insights. We whites - especially in the South - are working through racial issues, each in our own time.
And we work through them more easily for others than we have managed to do for ourselves. I agree with Mr. Alvear's inclination to point the finger where it belongs - at himself - which is something we could all learn from.
For those who grew up in the South after World War II, racial division, mistrust, and mutual rage and a system that supported it were just the "way it was." In coastal Georgia, segregation was a given. I knew black kids and families, and we spent time together. I ate in their homes, but they didn't eat in mine.
There was a gentleness about many African-Americans. So I, along with many fellow Southerners, was shocked when so much rage began to spill over after decades of silence. It was unfamiliar. It was scary.
We claimed we had good relations. And many did. But we missed the point. It was hardly possible to know the inside of black America, since many African-Americans had learned quite well their need to never share it. Yet spill over it did. And white America has had a hard time understanding that.
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