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Questions of Race and Prejudice

July 11, 1999

In her July 4 article for the Southern California Living section ("Where Does Black Fit In With Red, White, Blue?"), Sandy Banks refers to what she perceives to be an offensive scene in the movie "The General's Daughter." John Travolta's character, in an attempt to insult a small-town Southern sheriff, says, "Shouldn't you be off somewhere rousting coloreds?" Banks claims that the reaction of laughter from "the virtually all-white crowd" filled her with "hurt, disgust, resignation." "What does it mean," Banks writes, "that my white brethren still find humor in the image of black folks being harassed by police?" Could Banks have possibly failed to realize that the audience was laughing at the prejudice and ignorance of the small-town Southern mentality (also a stereotype, but that is not the issue at hand) and not the brutal image of a shackled black individual? . . .

Banks should have realized that . . . perhaps she was the truly prejudiced person in that audience since she was the individual making such a rush to judgment about a group of nameless and faceless whites.

KATRINA ISSA

Santa Monica

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I guess we should all thank Sandy Banks for reminding us, this Independence Day, about the "pervasive racism" that persists in America. Otherwise, according to her own report, the fact that the black middle class is thriving, as are black employment, home ownership, college education status and general economic status, might have led some Americans to believe they had something to be proud about in their country. Only deeply ingrained negativity could allow her to ignore the good news in her own column!

SUZANNE R. LAKE

Pasadena

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Today's column was superb. As a white American, I couldn't agree with you more in everything you wrote. In my early years I was confronted with anti-Semitism many times. But I do not equate it with the florid discrimination you describe so eloquently. Keep up the good work.

S. REIFF

Via Internet

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I read the article and, as a 42-year-old white woman, you showed me what it is black Americans still feel . . . and it made me sad to realize we haven't come far enough to wipe out that feeling of not belonging 100%. I may or may not have laughed at that line in "The General's Daughter" (haven't seen it), but I would never have thought of it as anything but ancient history. I have black friends, brown friends, and white friends and I am included in their family events, as they are in mine, and I just think of them as my friends--not black, brown or white. I see your picture as a black woman, but I just think of you as a mother and a businesswoman, never by your race. I guess I wanted to let you know that if I think that way, and my children have been brought up to think that way, then maybe lots of others do too. I hope that means that your children can grow up feeling that inheritance of belonging without reservation.

Keep writing about the issues of life, whether they involve being a working mom (I am one), or race relations, because lots of us can relate to you.

DIANE LAVALETTE

Via Internet

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