Monday, December 30, 2019

The One About Karen

The first thing that came to mind when I read about that now-infamous letter to the Baltimore Sun opining on how a local football player should spend his personal income was this:

Please, please don’t let Karen be from Howard County.

Over the last year a number of singularly unhelpful letters have turned up in the paper, holding forth on what’s wrong with Baltimore and how to fix it. I cringe when I see their origin: Clarksville, or Ellicott City, or some other Howard County location. In general, the worldview they offer looks something like this:

I am white
I am affluent
I’m not from Baltimore
I don’t know the history
I’m not up on current events

As you might imagine, the advice they offer is limited in value. No, that is too kind. It is ignorant of the deeper issues and often outright racist. If you think the most pressing issue in Baltimore is what to do about “those squeegee kids” then you have not done your homework. These sorts of letters do not make Howard County look good. I wince every time I read one.

This is why I jumped to the conclusion that a letter in which someone named Karen was criticizing a Black football player on buying expensive gifts for his teammates had probably come from out our way. That tone seemed awfully familiar. But, as far as I can tell, this is not the case. I guess ignorance knows no boundaries.

I’ve been catching up on back episodes of Elevate Maryland and there’s a moment in Episode 75 where co-hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale offer thoughts on people from outside Baltimore amusing themselves with Baltimore’s political woes. Their discussion occurs towards the beginning of the Episode, during the “Three Things I’m Thinking About” portion of the podcast. It’s worth a listen.

There’s a special kind of hubris involved when affluent and largely ignorant folks think that their advice is necessary or event wanted. It is not unlike very rich people suggesting how the desperately poor just don’t budget well enough. It is more than merely unhelpful. It’s ugly. And hurtful.

Let’s not be that, Howard County. We have enough to worry about right here at home.


Year in Review episode of Elevate Maryland is happening tonight at 5:30. Sign up here for free tickets if you want to catch some of the lively conversation in person and experience the show in its new location.

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