RECENTLY, A friend engaged in a rather lively debate concerning Don Imus and the consequences of his stereotyping remarks.

My friend wasn't trying to defend Imus' tasteless commentary, but he has constantly been exclaiming, "Foul - there is a double standard." He claims that African-Americans are allowed to make statements that non-African-Americans are not allowed to, and he then continues to bellow on about rap music.

Of course, I responded.

"There is no double standard here, and what does rap music have to do with anything?"

In response, he presented me with an audio stream of the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board interviews of the mayoral candidates.

One went something like this:

The interviewer from the Inquirer asked the question, "For some reason, you have difficulty gaining traction in the African-American community. The question is, why?"

Former councilman and current mayoral candidate Michael Nutter replied:

"I actually think this is kind of funny . . . I could have come in here in baggy pants and my hat turned backwards . . . maybe that would have made me more down."

My friend screams, "See - double standard" and waits for my reaction. I look up and shouted, "He should get fired, too."

We both laughed, of course, but the consequence of the appearance that people of color don't speak out when they see or hear the inconsistencies of what has been described as "political correctness" seemed to be a stench hanging in the air.

Based on amendments made to the Constitution of this country, we long ago left behind looking at and judging people by gender, age or race - or have we?

It does appear that we as a nation now have equal opportunity to be purveyors of tasteless comments. White, black, Latino, Asian, young, or old - it doesn't seem to matter.

These purveyors now come in all shapes and sizes, and we accept them. Confirmation of that is observed by the reaction of the editorial board.

There wasn't one follow-up question challenging Mr. Nutter concerning his baseless views of what would make him more appealing to the majority of African-American voters.

I was stunned by this comment, I was stunned by the silence of the interviewers on the subject, and I was equally stunned that the Inquirer went on to endorse him with their knowledge of his views.

BUT I GUESS that if so many can attempt to rationalize Imus' comments, I shouldn't be surprised that one of our leading newspapers could look past Mr. Nutter's stereotypical commentary and endorse him for mayor.

It seems we all speak about political correctness and civility but treat them both as a nuisance when confronted with attempting to apply them.

We must begin to understand that undermining civility is not a liberal, left-leaning or knee-jerk, right-wing consideration. Civility protects us all as a nation, which is why we created amendments to the Constitution that speak to civility and directly advance it.

Stereotyping limits our prosperity as a nation. When you can't see past gray hair, or baggy pants, or a skirt, or someone's complexion, then we're doomed to make economic considerations, or personal considerations or considerations about where we live, based on ignorance.

Regardless of the purveyors of tasteless comments, be it he or she, gay or straight, black or white, rich, poor, young, old - it doesn't matter. It hurts us as a community, as a city, as a state and as a nation.

Respectfully my friends, there is no double standard, just one standard.

Civility should be applied to all and stereotyping should be removed from all. *

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams represents the 8th District in West Philadelphia.