Thanks for publishing Harold Henderson's column about life inside the Robert Taylor homes ["Abandoned Buildings," March 16]. For the outside world, Sudhir Venkatesh has done an excellent job of transforming Taylor's residents from stereotypes into people. It was especially interesting to learn about their debates regarding how to handle the community's gang problem.
Henderson's main thesis is that, by abandoning Robert Taylor, the City of Chicago made a bad situation worse. There is merit to this position, and Henderson raises good questions about a society's responsibility to its most vulnerable members. However, in the process he comes close to absolving gang members of moral responsibility for beating people in broad daylight, and even shooting them.
I'm not saying that gang members are horrible thugs without an ounce of redeeming qualities. My point is that we shouldn't equate understanding horrible behavior with excusing it. Henderson comes dangerously close to doing so.