Letter: How racism makes black teenage mums

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The Independent Online
Sir: Esther Oxford's article 'What they learn at Laurent Paquin School' (28 October) highlighted an important issue: racism still dominates American society. This summer I worked for three months at a hotel in Ocean City which is near to Baltimore. Apart from the students working there, all the menial jobs were performed by black women; many of whom were only partially literate.

All of them had children. Denise, for instance, was only 20 years old yet was the mother of three. The treatment outlined in the article (persuading girls to take a five-year contraceptive) is intended for mothers in this situation. The thought of brainwashing emotionally immature women to make the decision not to have children for five years is more characteristic of a Third World country than a liberal democracy.

The authorities should instead try to improve the social environment which is the root cause of the problem. The blacks in Ocean City lived in different areas. Areas where the crime rate was higher, drug abuse more frequent and living standards lower. This led to my manageress suggesting the blacks were uncivilised. The owner of the hotel vowed never to appoint a non-white into a senior position. While living there I never met a black manager.

I travelled around America and found these prejudices were not peculiar to Ocean City. It is these attitudes that must be changed. Unwanted pregnancies are simply a symptom of a larger problem which crackpot schemes like the one at the Laurent Paquin school do nothing to solve. If Bill Clinton is sincere about wishing to emulate President Kennedy, he must start addressing the racial issue.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD GRIEVE

Liverpool

30 October

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