Letter Of The Week

Survey says

Re: Thulani Davis's "The Height of Disrespect" [March 17–23]: If it weren't so sad, it would be funny that it takes a study to reveal what ordinary people have observed for a dozen years or more—that hip-hop culture is toxically anti-woman and encourages irresponsible, self-destructive behavior in both sexes.

But anybody—even, perhaps especially, a person of color—who tried to point out this reality over the last decade has been accused of being racist and failing to understand a "cultural difference." It seems we understood it perfectly. It appears that political correctness among progressives has prevented us from tackling a problem that has the worst repercussions for those least able to fight back: young people from poor communities and fragmented families.

Sally Schuman
Palo Alto, California

Gray's blues

Thank you for Mark Russell's lyrical piece on Spalding Gray [March 17–23]. It's fitting that he has inspired such tender reminiscence and vivid writing.

Like many people, I felt I knew Spalding Gray. I'd seen his work many times, at the Performing Garage, on film, and at Town Hall when he played the narrator in Our Town. I thrilled to spot him on the subway. As an arts publicist, I spent a fair amount of time with him at a TV shoot at the Portland, Oregon, zoo, where the elephant keeper knew who he was and they engaged in genuine dialogue. I knew he was in physical and emotional pain, but his performance transcended all that and took us to the sweetness of Sag Harbor and the wry demands of domestic and artistic life. Always unpretentious and authentically interested, he spoke with avid listeners in a completely natural, unhurried way after the performance.

Acting on us like one of his pieces, Spalding Gray's suicide has made each of us feel our own emptiness. I ache for his family's.

Cynthia Kirk
Sherwood, Oregon

The collective embrace

I am sorry that Ta-Nehisi Coates has such a poor opinion of the black community in America ["Jayson Blair Comes to Harlem," March 17–23], and I would like to protest the stereotypical "we" for whom Coates presumes to speak. How absurd to say that all black people hate white people! Coates should also stop advancing the media myth that the majority of African Americans cheered for O.J. We didn't. Nor, as Coates claimed, are we a vindictive people, certainly no more than anyone else.

Our collective embrace of black victims of injustice was born of hundreds of years of injustice against innocent black people, and is not a knee-jerk response to random events involving blacks, as Coates suggests. Furthermore, I have not heard that African Americans are commending Jayson Blair for his dishonesty, or that we in any numbers blame his downfall on anyone other than the disgraced Mr. Blair himself.

The book signing in Harlem was, pure and simple, a business decision, aimed at what publishers, sellers, and other for-profit promoters saw as the biggest potential market—black people. Whether or not the merchandisers of Blair's sorry tale have played their cards right in heading for Harlem remains to be seen. But all of that uptown cavorting that Coates reports is just the bottom line playing out. It's nothing personal—just business as usual.

Freida Chapman
Thurman, New York

Debt becomes her

Thank you for publishing the article on the current economic prospects of 18- to 34-year-olds ["The Ambition Tax," by Brendan I. Koerner, March 17–23]! As one of those 14 percent of individuals who had to live with her parents for a few years after college because I couldn't afford to simultaneously pay off both my student loan and cover the cost of rent in California, I am both frustrated by and depressed about how little this issue is being discussed.

I'm a financial aid counselor at an adult school where full-time workers pay exorbitant tuition to do their work on a tutorial basis, all for the sake of a 5 percent pay increase! Being a part of this broken system and signing people up for a lifetime of debt can really depress me, particularly since most of our students work in law enforcement and I'm well aware that their income will never match the sacrifices they make on a daily basis to ensure some kind of social equilibrium in the community.

I watched many of my more affluent college friends take unpaid internships or spend their summers in foreign countries on Mom and Dad's dime while I worked a crap job and barely covered the cost of rent in the East Bay. Watching my richer peers get the kinds of opportunities which later developed into amazingly fulfilling careers diminished my desire to reach for something higher than my current tedious job.

For the rest of us who emerged from college with lots of debt and very few prospects, doing something that actually contributes to the well-being of the community means sacrificing the types of luxuries the older generation revels in: houses, vacations, retirement plans, etc.

Brendan Koerner's article validated the frustration I've been feeling ever since graduation, and I hope that his well-argued point reaches the ears of those who want to do something about this dilemma facing the debt generation.

Alice Baker
Sacramento, California

Trading places

Re "The Ambition Tax": I understand the problems many of these young people are experiencing. However, somewhere down the line, somebody has fed them a load of crap regarding what is a decent career.

I am not college educated, and most of my dearest friends are not as well. Instead of going to college, we became tradesmen: plumbers, tile men, electricians, welders, etc. It is not glamorous work, but it seems to afford us homes and even computers.

It seems somebody brainwashed people into believing that these careers are for the "butt crack showing from your jeans" crowd. Well, bending over can come with the territory, but it beats a long commute and paying off college debt; plus, many times these trades pay better than the white-collar jobs.

Scott Carrington
Raleigh, North Carolina

From the horse's mouth

I enjoyed Benjamin Strong's review of my film Hidalgo ["Horse Platitudes," March 10-16], but I have one problem with it. Our depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre was not only historically accurate (forgive the dearth of blood—this was Disney), but it was supervised by Lakota historians and medicine men, military advisers and historians, and the scene itself was re-enacted by descendants of both Lakota survivors and Seventh Cavalry soldiers.

We worked hard and went far and beyond to make the first cinematic re-enactment of Wounded Knee authentic. I just screened the film for 490 Oglala-Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation and their reaction was the highlight of my career.

John Fusco
Morristown, Vermont


Eva Yaa Asantewaa's "Souls in Motion" (March 10-16) listed an incorrect phone number for Rev. Susan Turchin's Movement as Prayer workshops. The correct number is 212-931-6840.

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