I’ve been thinking a lot about the break-ins and damage at local restaurants in Columbia and Ellicott City. It has been covered widely by local news and it's all over social media. Like any unsolved crime, there are facts that we know and things that remain unknown. There are pieces of information that point to things that we suspect may be true.
County Executive Calvin Ball received some pushback for releasing the following statement:
Today our community is saddened by a string of burglaries that occurred in the last 24 hours. Our restaurant community is going through one of the toughest years that has ever existed for their industry and these crimes are adding unnecessary economic and mental stress on these owners, their employees, and our community. I encourage neighbors to reach out, support, and patronize all these businesses during this difficult time and as they recover.
Furthermore, many of these restaurants are owned and operated by members of our Asian business community and feature Asian cuisine. To have these crimes occur during the beginning of Lunar New Year – a time of great celebration and joy – is additionally sad and distressing.
Hateful or racist language and violence has no place here in Howard County. If you are aware of any potential hate-bias incident, please call the Howard County Police Department's non-emergency line at (410) 313-2200.
The HCPD is diligently investigating these crimes and we encourage anyone with any knowledge of who was behind this vandalism to call 410-313-2200.
Again we hear from the “why do you make everything about race?” contingent. They must just camp out on his page, waiting to spring into action.
Do we know for a fact that these are racially-motivated hate crimes? No. Does it seem likely that many in our Asian community are feeling them as such? Yes, and with good reason. Incidents of hate crimes against Asians have been on the rise throughout the nation. These particular crimes in Howard County, perpetrated on the Lunar Year and affecting mostly Asian-owned businesses point to something they (and we) suspect may be true.
Is it wrong to acknowledge those feelings? No. A message from a local leader which shows thoughtful consideration and empathy for members of the community is never a mistake. Taking the opportunity to affirm the concerns of the victims and condemn any sort of racially-motivated hate crimes is both respectful and responsible. This is not an emotionally-charged statement full of inflammatory language. It is not meant to stir up anger at any other individual or group. It is not intended to hamper a criminal investigation.
I would imagine that, should these crimes turn out not to be racially motivated, that the County Executive will be quick to acknowledge that and be more than happy to do so. To those who attack him for even mentioning the mere possibility, well, methinks your privilege is showing. By this I reference the frequently-shared quote:
Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.
I would add that there’s some kind of twisted Howard County privilege in demanding that we not even talk about things that make them uncomfortable. I reject that. We absolutely can talk about these uncomfortable issues without knowing every detail of these crimes. We can show support for our neighbors and sit with them in their feelings of fear and loss.
To have an opportunity to do these things and instead to choose lukewarm excuses and testy equivocation is a failure in humanity. I’m grateful that I see many more voices of support coming from our community than these few who would rather deflect and deny.