IT HAS BEEN 25 years since the first Race Unity Day in Howard County. These annual picnics typically attract about 100 people who enjoy themselves while learning to appreciate each other's ethnicity.
Planners of this year's event -- from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Wilde Lake High School football stadium -- hope for an even larger crowd. They have sent out more than 200 invitations to religious groups and other organizations.
It is good to see the emphasis for improved race relations being placed on getting to know one another. Sitting down to break bread, play games or watch a musical performance with people whose looks or religion may be different helps us to discover how much we have common.
Understanding and developing a greater appreciation of each other as individuals helps to erase the prejudices and biases that still pervade American society.
Howard County has made great strides in improving race relations over the past 25 years. Much of the progress can be linked to having within its borders the planned city of Columbia, which was developed by the late James Rouse as a model of diversity. But neither Howard County nor Columbia is free of racial and religious intolerance.
That was evident last year when many residents accepted as entirely believable the contrived story of a North Laurel woman who claimed her apartment was vandalized by racists.
But good work continues in this area: The school system's Office of Human Relations helps young people from many ethnic backgrounds get along. The county's Office of Human Rights holds "study circles" to gather small groups to discuss racial issues. County police and judges have begun a program to reduce hate crime by having perpetrators face panels of victims.
In that vein, getting more people to participate in Race Unity Day is essential to reaching a time in Howard when false allegations of hateful acts won't be so easy to accept as truth, and real ones won't occur.
Pub Date: 6/12/98