Black Listed

Peter Noel's article "Portraits in Racial Profiling: When Clothes Make the Suspect" [March 21] bothered me because it showed, in relating the episode of police harassment of four Ivy League students, that even when blacks and other minorities are not "dressed down," clothing and association don't matter.

As a Barnard student, I shouldn't have to hide from crimes I haven't committed, or watch where I put my ID or wallet for the police to properly do their job. If some Yale grads are going to be accosted without any chance to ID themselves, then apparently it is their ethnicity that makes them suspicious.

People tell you to get an education, stay away from thugs, dress with some conservativeness, and make friends from other groups. However, all these things will never change the fact that I'm African American. I sometimes wonder if it would make a difference if I kick it with thugs and smoke all day. In the end, it's my blackness that's going to matter to the police.

Alizia Latimore

Tight Fit

Thank you for Peter Noel's article on racial wardrobe profiling. I have a one-year-old son, so it terrifies me that police can go after a black male, and if he turns out to be an innocent bystander and they kill him, the reaction is "better luck next time"—which seems to be Giuliani's take on things. But then if someone dresses "white," he is looked down upon as a sellout. By the way, I think the Voice should do a story on this phenomenon of black paranoia about being a sellout. It spans the generations and is a noose around our necks.

Two examples:

I recently heard a film school student say, "I want to make films relevant to the black community. I'm not going to be a sellout." Why must we put an extra burden on ourselves to be so pure? Then my 64-year-old father, who is supposed to walk regularly for health reasons, objected to my suggestion that he take up golf. "Golf is for the bourgeoisie," he said.

I think one of the worst legacies of slavery has to be this identity insecurity, the continued psychological straitjacket.

Nancy Travis Kofie
Laurel, Maryland

Persecution Complex

I am shocked that you would print the article "Hynes and His 'Haman' " [March 21] by Rebecca Segall, which accused Michael Vecchione, one of my colleagues, of anti-Semitism when he was merely doing his job—trying to get justice for a young Orthodox Jewish woman who alleged that she had been threatened not to proceed in a rape case against her father.

It was irresponsible to print that Hasidic leaders who attended the trial of Rabbi Bernard Freilich alleged that Mr. Vecchione made anti-Semitic comments during his summation without reviewing the transcript. I have done so, and there is not one comment that could even be "construed" as anti-Semitic in the whole summation.

If there are members of the Hasidic community who disagree with the prosecution of this and other cases by our office, so be it. But it is terribly wrong to attempt to discredit Mr. Vecchione's integrity by likening him to Haman and waving the red flag of anti-Semitism.

Amy Feinstein
First Assistant District Attorney

Rebecca Segall replies: My article reported on a major controversy in the Hasidic community, and the community's reaction to the D.A.'s office was of necessity an integral part of the story. The D.A.'s office did not return repeated calls asking for comment, and Ms. Feinstein now has offered her own interpretation of the summation and my statements about it—which she characterizes incorrectly. I wrote that Hasidic observers who attended the trial and heard the summation alleged that "one of Hynes's aides" made anti-Semitic comments. I stated that two of Hynes's top deputies had been assigned to the case. I did quote a talk given by a relative following Rabbi Freilich's acquittal, which framed the case in terms of Purim imagery and his explanation that "the prosecutor, Vecchione, could be seen as Haman." The impact of the summation on the community was such that, as I wrote, the Jewish Press "promised to print portions of the summation—which is currently being transcribed—in upcoming issues, allowing readers to 'judge for themselves.' "

The Gospel According to James

James Ridgeway appears to be about as anti-Christian as one can get ["God Have Mercy: The Christian Right Wins Again," Mondo Washington, March 14]. It seems obvious that Ridgeway is a socialist at best, and totally ignorant about the holy scriptures.

As a Christian, I take offense at his remarks—even though it is acceptable to knock Christians in this country. People like Ridgeway seem to believe in free speech as long as it agrees with them. This is the first time I have read him, and it will definitely be the last.

If I want this kind of trash, I can read The Communist Manifesto.

Johnnie McCord
Mountain Grove, Missouri

Out of Africa

I would like to commend Mark Schoofs for his excellent article on South African president Thabo Mbeki's current obsession with questioning the veracity of long-held scientific evidence about HIV and AIDS ["Flirting with Pseudoscience," March 21].

As a news journalist writing often on the subject of South Africa's horrifying, spiraling AIDS epidemic, I was impressed with Mr. Schoofs's grasp of the political complexities of our situation, and I greatly appreciate the attention he devoted to it.

The majority of our population is still in the grip of myth, taboo, fear, and denial on the subject of AIDS, presenting a fearsome challenge for government anti-AIDS programs in the best of circumstances.

Anything less than a totally unambiguous message to the public will only exacerbate an already desperate situation.

Adèle Sulcas
Johannesburg, South Africa

Trebay Nominated for GLAAD Award

Village Voice staff writer Guy Trebay has been nominated for an award in a competition sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Trebay's May 11, 1999, feature "The Enemy Within" was cited for inclusion in the "Outstanding Newspaper Article" category. This is the second consecutive year that GLAAD has recognized Trebay's work.

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