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Name Change Is a Matter of Attitude

March 25, 1990

In response to the article regarding the changing of the name of Compton Boulevard (Times, March 15), I'm reminded that perhaps cities must undergo the same painful experience that individuals must undergo to achieve personal growth.

Author-psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote that everything can be taken away from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

The response of city officials toward criticism directed at the city has been like something I'm reminded of--the child who is so up-tight, so unsure of himself that he is willing, at the drop of a hat, to get on with a fight--someone who carries an enormous chip on his shoulder.

It is that attitude that perpetuates the desire for surrounding city officials to want to break ties with anything associated with Compton. Of course the desire to disassociate is due to the fact that Compton has become predominantly black. Of course it has to do with racism. But it is the attitude of city officials that helps provide the steam to keep the move alive.

Maybe the city, like the individual, must go deep inside itself to find meaning and purpose under the most dire circumstances, when no one wants to be associated with it. We have a choice about which attitude to assume. If no association is desired, the city must assume the attitude that is appropriate for the individual. An individual cannot force another who does not wish to associate with him or her to associate. Individuals may choose, without coercion, to associate or not to associate with one another, and the appropriate attitude of the rejected person is to accept that rejection and to look elsewhere, perhaps within himself or herself, in an effort to deal with the pain of rejection. It is not appropriate, however, to direct threats of punishment or insults toward the rejecting person.

The city of Compton must bear, with dignity, the fact that at this particular time in its history there are few who wish to be associated with it.

Self-examination is now in order. And in our struggle for dignity we must learn to laugh at our infantile efforts to move toward a time when we may be accepted as a worthy, intelligent people, secure in our knowledge that we are striving to overcome our shortcomings, and secure in the knowledge that we are a people worthy of self-respect and of the respect of others.

ERCELL H. HOFFMAN

Compton

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