Unresolved issues of race dominate Maryland news of 2017

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What could be the defining sentiment of 2017 emerged May 2 from what should have been an unlikely source.

“Nothing is at rest when it comes to race,” Baltimore Orioles All-Star Adam Jones said.


Jones was speaking after a specific event — racial slurs hurled at him the night before from the stands during a game in Boston — but also more broadly. Indeed, America’s unresolved issues with race — 50 years after the civil rights movement — threaded through much of the news this year, from sports to politics, crime to schools.

Here is a review of some of the events this year in which race played a role.


March 20: White man from Hampden kills black man in New York

The crime was shocking on the face of it: An African-American man, Timothy Caughmann, 66, was stabbed with a sword multiple times in midtown Manhattan, and just over 24 hours later, a white man turned himself in to police. James Harris Jackson, now 29, said he traveled to New York from Baltimore expressly to kill blacks. Jackson grew up in Towson and graduated from Friends School, the Quaker school in North Baltimore, served in the Army as an intelligence analyst and lived in Hampden. In a jailhouse interview with the New York Daily News, he said he was from a liberal family but was angered by interracial dating. He remains in custody awaiting trial on charges of murder as a hate crime and as an act of terrorism.

May 1: Adam Jones subjected to slurs at Fenway Park

A bag of peanuts was thrown at Jones as he returned to the dugout at one point during the game at Fenway Park, and the center fielder said he heard the n-word coming from the stands as well. The condemnation was swift, from the Red Sox, city and state officials, and the following night, fans gave Jones a standing ovation on his first at bat. But the incident opened a number of discussions, including how the percentage of black Major League Baseball players was declining, and prompted the league to develop a code of conduct for fans that it will implement at all ballparks in 2018.

May 20: Bowie State University student fatally stabbed in College Park

Richard W. Collins III, a 23-year-old African-American Bowie State University senior who had just been commissioned an Army second lieutenant, was visiting friends at the University of Maryland when he was stabbed at a bus stop. A white University of Maryland student, Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, who belonged to the racist Alt Reich Nation Facebook group, was charged with murder and a hate crime. It was the most serious such incident in a year when the state’s flagship university found itself repeatedly addressing issues of race and bias. In April, a noose was found in the kitchen of a fraternity house, and, in the fall, several swastikas appeared in a dorm and in a restroom stall. In November, university officials announced a more streamlined process for responding to hate-bias incidents, and said they would hire a coordinator to carry it out.

July 24: At a Westminster Civil War commemoration, re-litigating the cause of the conflict


At an annual commemoration of a minor Civil War skirmish in Westminster, a Sons of the Confederacy color guard turned its back on a speaker representing descendants of the Union. It was just one of multiple such conflicts that would play out across the country this year as different groups argued over how to interpret and commemorate the more than 150-year-old conflict. In Westminster, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans was giving a speech about a black soldier whose grave was recently discovered there, and referred to how the Civil War was prompted by slavery — which is what most historians of the conflict say was indeed the primary cause of the conflict. The Sons of the Confederacy took offense and turned their backs on the speaker, with one color guard member telling The Sun that the war was about individual states’ rights.

Aug. 12: Baltimore Klansman accused of shooting at a black man in Charlottesville

A “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., brought a rash of violence to town, most tragically when a car plowed through a crowd and killed a counter-protester. A video captured another incident: a black man spraying something from a can and igniting it, followed by a white man shouting a racial slur and firing a round from a handgun in his direction. Two weeks later, Richard Wilson Preston, Jr., 52, a Klansman who lives in Baltimore, was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm near a school.

Aug.15-16: Statues come down overnight in Baltimore and Annapolis

After the violence in Charlottesville, where torch-bearing, chanting white nationalists had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the end finally came for Baltimore’s own Confederate-linked monuments. With no prior announcement, crews took down and towed away four monuments in six hours overnight, perhaps the most decisive action Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh took in her first year in office. “We moved quickly and quietly. There was enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made. Get it done,” Pugh said. Several days later, again under cover of night and with the support of Gov. Larry Hogan, a statue of Roger Taney, the one-time chief justice and author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision, was removed from the State House grounds in Annapolis. And on Aug. 28 the University of Maryland marching band said it would no longer perform the state song, which refers to President Lincoln as a despot and rails against “northern scum,” before football games.

Sept. 24: Ravens begin a Sunday of kneeling


All eyes were on the Ravens as they took the field at Wembley Stadium in London for a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Given the time difference, it was the first game that Sunday, at 9:30 a.m., after President Donald Trump said at a rally in Alabama that he wished team owners would fire players who knelt during the national anthem. Multiple Ravens and Jaguars knelt, as did many more players throughout the day than before Trump inserted himself into the issue. In the aftermath, some Ravens fans burned their team gear or said they would boycott the games, while others were angry that what had begun as a protest against racial injustice was now framed as disrespecting the flag or the military. The increasingly toxic debate prompted the Ravens’ anthem singer, Joey Odoms, to resign. On Instagram, Odoms cited his reason as “fans who attack players for protesting, (a right in which I fought to defend) but are simply not interested in understanding why.”

Oct. 30: School controversies

Several of Baltimore’s elite private schools denounced photos that circulated on social media of white students or graduates at Halloween parties wearing orange prison jumpsuits — including one printed with the name of Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody, before he even made it to Central Booking, triggered rioting in 2015. Another student had put a caption on one photo, using the n-word. It was part of multiple disturbing incidents at area schools this year. Among them: On May 11, a noose was discovered hanging from a light fixture outside Crofton Middle School in Anne Arundel County. Surveillance cameras had captured footage of the scene, and two suspects were arrested the following evening. On Nov. 5, the principal of Oakland Mills High School in Howard County sent a letter to parents about a racist Snapchat post of a white male student wearing a Confederate flag bandanna and using a racial slur. On Dec. 14, threatening graffiti using a racial slur was discovered in a bathroom stall at Loyola Blakefield, a Catholic boys’ school in Towson. Officials said they closed the school that day “out of an abundance of care for our community.”