Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, there was a shooting in Oakland Mills. Of course it lit up the news. It is a horrible thing. Gunfire. Crime. Masked assailant. Columbia neighborhood. We wince and shudder against the image of it.
This shouldn't be happening here, we think. Not in Howard County. Not in Columbia. Not in my neighborhood. "And on Thanksgiving!"
No sooner was the news spreading on social media than the familiar comments began to accumulate.
- "White or black?"
- "It was the apartments, wasn't it?"
- "Those people are thugs."
- "The victim was probably involved in illegal activity."
- "Columbia will never be safe until we get rid of subsidized housing."
- "Columbia used to be safe. Before those people came."
Those people. Those poor people. Those black people. Those other people.
As frightening and damaging as the shooting itself is the unapologetic racism and hatred of these comments. It is the attitude which allows the "other- ing" of fellow humans. The attitude of privilege, judgement, exclusion. And from these attitudes can come entrenched policies of disenfranchisement--think Ferguson.
Can we think only of ourselves? What about the poor woman who opened the door? What about the victim? What about the neighbors? What about their Thanksgiving?
Some Columbia residents will use this event as evidence to further their own agenda. We will probably see more calls for improvement that really mean exclusion. Look for neighborhood flyers and emails with capital letters that encourage you to be afraid and get angry. It is completely normal to respond to an event like this with fear or anger. But to use it as a tool to promote a reinvention which is thinly-veiled "purification" is just wrong.
In closing, I recommend to you this piece by Long Reach resident James Howard. He has a request that we choose on Thanksgiving to reach across racial and ethnic divides. "And for once, treat each other as human."
Thanksgiving may be over, but the challenge still stands.