The first step in recovery from any negative condition in one's life is to admit that there is a problem. Saturday's OneHoward meeting brought a lot of sentiment that a problem exists, and the simple fact that the meeting happened at all indicates that our community's leadership admits that a problem exists. But the message I learned from yesterday is that we are still understanding how deep this problem runs.
I made it to the event about an hour late, but was still present for over an hour and 45 minutes of the meeting, and online, I watched (and posted to The 53 Facebook page) the video of Dr. David Anderson's presentation where he held a conversation with the Atholton HS student who put brown makeup over her face. The student explained the background behind how that social media post occurred, and Dr. Anderson showed reaction on the part of his own 16-year-old daughter. At this point members of the audience became upset, and calls came for the video to be turned off. This led to almost two hours of community input and questions about the problems of race and diversity and inclusion in Howard County.
Part of me is still processing what happened yesterday; what I heard and saw. Part of me has opinions about what I heard and saw. And I think it's good that I share those. As a middle aged, while male who moved to Columbia in part so his children could take advantage of a diverse community, I'm disgusted that racist sentiments exist and that children and adults alike in this community are tolerant of hateful acts. So, here are some things I think:
Obviously, this conversation needs to continue. Congressman Cummings, Councilman Ball, Delegates Hill, Turner and Atterbeary, and others are hosting another community conversation on this topic on Tuesday, December 20 from 7-9pm at Howard Community College. I plan to attend and so should you.
About these school incidents. My opinion is that there needs to be both discipline and education. I understand that these are teenagers (and likely younger) doing these things, and they need to be educated that these behaviors and feelings are not OK ones to have, and are indicative of deeper concerns. Fear acting out in anger and hatred towards things they don't understand. I'm all for that conversation and education, although I wish I was smart enough to know how to do it effectively for all. At the same time, these acts in themselves are not acceptable and either lengthy suspensions or expulsions should result for HCPSS students who commit these acts.
There was a young lady named Brittany who, IMHO, was head in shoulders above all speakers in the eloquence and passion of her remarks. Her comment "fear is interpreted and dismissed as political correctness" rings in my ears. I would love it if she reached out to me, because I would enjoy talking with her about her beliefs longer. I felt like I can learn a lot from her.
I believe that we also must remember that there are other dimensions of the discussion of diversity and inclusion. Thinking specifically about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender inequity and ageism. There wasn't much, if any, discussion about either of these items yesterday (maybe I wasn't present for it?) and I hope that these topics are talked about in the future.
The last thing I want to share right now is that I think we all need to be tolerant of each other as we walk through this process. I know I am certainly not without sin, and as I looked around the room yesterday, there were a lot of people in the room who I know have sinned in the area of understanding and appreciating the beliefs and backgrounds of others, in deeds as well as of thoughts. Some of them were even at the head table of the discussion. Some of them even talked to the crowd. My hope is that we can all understand that we are imperfect carriers of this message in ourselves, but that in walking the path we are, we are all moving down the road together. We are all trying to be better. And so, as me continue this process, let's remember that we have to be gentle and just towards ourselves before we can be gentle and just to others.
Hope you've enjoyed this Sunday morning editorial. Let's be careful out there.
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