MY FAVORITE author is Kurt Vonnegut, who died last year. In his posthumous book, "Armageddon in Retrospect," he made a poignant comment about race in America.

"And now I have raised my right hand. And that means I am not kidding, that whatever I say next I believe to be true. So here goes: The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime wasn't our contribution to defeat the Nazis, in which I played a large part, or Ronald Reagan's overthrow of Godless Communism, in Russia at least.

"The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizens have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans, both in and out of government, and simply because of their skin color, as though they were contemptible and loathesome, and even diseased."

In this election year, where race seems to come up too often, I think that no truer words were ever written.

Heather deRussy, Philadelphia