A white father wrings his hands over the on-again, off-again relationship that his daughter is having with a black man.

A black man says racism in Northern, majority-white cities operates in a way that is "underground, clandestine and covert," reflecting a kind of discrimination that he says is robbing generations of racial minorities in the United States of hope and a future.A white man matter-of-factly notes, "If it weren't for the black population in the USA, the crime would drop by 75 percent."

None of the statements has gone unanswered. These remarks, and thousands more on race relations in the United States, have drawn responses, and those responses have drawn yet more. Against a backdrop of words, mountains of words - sometimes insensitive, sometimes seemingly shouted, at times insulting, but almost always honest and frank - Americans are increasingly plunging into the foamy churn of debating about race.

But these discussions are not buzzing so much in town hall meetings, as encouraged by President Clinton in his Initiative on Race, as in one of the few open forums where a person's skin color need not be revealed: cyberspace.

With the increasing popularity of Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms, where typed messages can be posted for millions to see and respond to, no one has to know a person's name, age, sex, sexual orientation or race.

Wrapped in what many mistakenly think is an almost impenetrable anonymity, growing num-bers of people say they feel free on the Internet to express themselves about an issue they would otherwise be reluctant to take up face-to-face with someone of another race on the job, at social events, or even on the telephone.