Saturday, January 7, 2017

Light and Shadows

In a press announcement dated November 21, 2016, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the #OneHoward initiative.

“In the past several weeks, I have learned of instances of bigotry, racism and intolerance and this isn’t who we are in Howard County,” said Kittleman. “I’ve heard of students who are afraid to go to school and of residents who feel we aren’t living in a civil society. We are better than this.”

Community members were encouraged to take the #OneHoward Pledge. Here it is.

What does it mean to be One Howard? To me it means that all are included, respected, valued. All. 

That's why I was so puzzled to see Mr. Kittleman pre-emptively announce his rejection of CB-9, which proposes to make Howard County a sanctuary county. To announce this position without listening to citizens as a part of the hearing process is to effectively shut down/exclude differing points of view. How can this be viewed as sharing values of inclusion and respect?

It can't. 

In fact, I have seen some of the most hateful, racist, derogatory language containing the grossest generalizations from those who are hailing Mr. Kittleman's announcement. I'm guessing these folks haven't signed the #OneHoward Pledge. Their accusations and slurs are the farthest thing from it.

Are we better than this?

The contrast between the lofty ideals of the Pledge and the wholesale rejection and vilification of people who are living and struggling in our county could not be more stark. If you think of #OneHoward as a light shining against the darkness of racism and intolerance, ask yourself this: who is holding that light? Who controls it?

If the hand is white, and privileged, and more committed to preserving the status quo than in upending institutionalized racism, then the end result will be to shine the light on those  most like ourselves, those we feel comfortable with. The more people differ from what we see as "normal",  the further out from the light they will be pushed. Into the shadows. Easily ignored. Unheard. Unseen.

Beyond the shadows are those who must actively run from the light and hide in the darkness. That is not "oneness". What may have begun with good intentions has become merely the reinforcement of long-established layers of exclusion. The light is only for some.

We cannot have it both ways. Either we are #OneHoward or we are not. Either we lead in a way that respects all in our community, as Council Bill 9 will facilitate, or we should be honest and call it #MyHoward or #NotYourHoward or #SomeRestrictionsApplyHoward.

Instead of rejecting CB-9 out-of-hand, wouldn't it be wonderful if we had some way to
"...promote community dialogue and reinforce the county’s shared goals of diversity  and inclusiveness"?  

Imagine how helpful that would be in addressing what is clearly a complex and difficult issue.

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