Sunday, August 30, 2020

Ten Years

Ten years ago I attended a Beer and Pizza summit hosted by Candace Dodson Reed. Its purpose was to talk about issues of race in Columbia/HoCo. Despite the fact that Ms. Dodson Reed had experienced substantial pushback from some in the community who didn’t think she should be holding it, the event was well attended. For me it was the beginning of putting my sheltered liberal white woman self out there and realizing how incredibly ignorant I was.

Today, ten years on, I’m mortified by how much I didn’t know on that day. To be honest, much of it has been learned in the last several years. A sampling:
  • The History of Redlining and how it perpetuates a wealth gap to this day
  • How SRO’s contribute to the school to prison pipeline 
  • What Microaggressions are and how/why they cause harm
  • How Black and Brown people are policed differently than whites
  • How the health care system often provide substandard care for Black and Brown patients 
That is just some of what I have learned. And all the while there are people in our community that proclaim loudly that Howard County has no racism. That Columbia was founded to champion integration, so what are you complaining about? Local students provided first hand accounts of how they have experienced racism in the Howard County Schools and a vocal group on Facebook loudly denounced it all as fake, denying the life experiences of our young people.

This week county council members Opel Jones and Christiana Rigby filed legislation to create a Racial Equity Task Force. From Council member Rigby:

The Task Force is charged with identifying changes to County ordinances and recommending legislation to the County Council that will improve racial equity in Howard County.

From Council member Jones:

Discussing race is not an easy topic, but to make sure we are fostering an even level playing field, for residents of color, we must continue to strive for an equitable and inclusive county, that will advance racial equity and social justice.

You may recall that Rigby and Jones have also proposed that unconscious bias and racial equity training to be provided for Council members and County Council staff. Has that happened yet?

Ten years ago the room at the Beer and Pizza summit was filled with people who voluntarily responded to an invitation to talk about race in our community, and to learn more. But the years since then have been a painful reminder of how many people in Columbia/HoCo do not want to talk about race. When local students led an outpouring of grief at the death of George Floyd at the hands of police and support for Black Lives Matter, social media lit up with the angry statements of those in opposition. Many of them were blatant examples of the racism they claim does not exist.

Yes, talking about race is hard, but we need to keep doing it. And doing it. It makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know how to fix things and we wish the unending and exhausting onslaught of racist violence would just go away. Imagine how our Black and Brown friends and neighbors feel.

Where will we be ten years from now, Columbia/HoCo?

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