Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Parks and Privilege

I’m pretty sure they have their hearts in the right place, but I’m going to put this in the category of things that might go horribly wrong:

Howard's parks seeking to enlist alert volunteers for safety watches by Leah Brennan for Howard County Times

From the article:

Howard County is looking to enlist regular visitors to its parks to become additional “eyes and ears” of the Recreation and Parks Department. 
The county on Monday rolled out a Park Watch program, which seeks to bolster safety and deter crime through a system that will use trained volunteers observing park activity to alert rangers, who contact county police for anything that would be pursued criminally.
What could go wrong with that, you ask? Isn’t this just a common sense way to appeal to the community to help keep our parks safe?

I’m afraid I can’t look at this initiative in a vacuum. After reading regular reports from across the country where white people have called the police to report people of color engaged in “suspicious activity”, well, I just wonder how this will play out in Howard County. Is this an invitation to all the “Permit Patty” types to come out of the woodwork and report the “suspicious activity” of those whose race differs from their own?

Might it become NextDoor for Park-goers? 

“That man runs here every morning and he throws his energy bar wrapper on the ground.” 

You know what I mean, right? The world is filled with people of privilege who are just itching for their chance to demand to speak to a manager. 

I have no intention of dismissing this initiative before it even has a chance to take root. I hope it is embraced by the community in the positive spirit with which it has been created. We have beautiful parks in Howard County and, if the public can help support that, well, we certainly should.

That being said, if it should happen that Park Watch unleashes a spate of reports on “park-ing while black”, I’m not sure I’ll be all that surprised.

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