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Howard County redistricting setting up opponents to look like racists

Outside River Hill High School, people protest a plan to redraw boundaries in Howard County to bolster diversity.
Outside River Hill High School, people protest a plan to redraw boundaries in Howard County to bolster diversity. (Photos courtesy of Scott Ewart)

For those of you who don’t know, the Howard County Council is proposing Resolution 112 seeking to address socioeconomic disparity in Howard County. While I am in favor of seeking to solve real problems in the county due to socioeconomic imbalance, I oppose this resolution (as it is written) on multiple fronts and have many factual counter arguments to the statements presented in the resolution.

I don’t want to waste my voice on these criticisms because I know they will be brought to light through other’s testimony (“Is Howard redistricting about race or about income? There’s a big difference,” Sept. 5). Rather, I will focus on an aspect that is quite elementary, but sets the tone for the whole resolution. It all starts with the term “integration” used in the very first sentence: “A RESOLUTION requesting the Howard County Public School System to draft, approve, and implement a lawful multi-year Integration Plan to ensure that Howard County Public Schools are integrated by socioeconomic factors.”

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The term “integration” is a politically charged, incendiary, emotion-evoking term. Don’t think for a minute this specific phrase was chosen without thought. This was an intentional and calculated word choice chosen by the team of high-priced attorneys and public relations firms (which my tax dollars paid for, I might add) that coached the county council on how to draft this document. It is referenced again further down in the fourth statement of the resolution: “…K-12 racial and social-economic achievement gap; WHEREAS, Howard County did not fully integrate its public school system until 1965, 11 years 15 after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, when the segregated Harriet Tubman High 16 School was closed and the students were sent to integrate Howard County public schools.”

This term usage above (used to support and further define “integration” perceptively to the reader) is an attempt to conflate, confuse and mislead the reader into evoking emotions of racial segregation. Later in the document it says the resolution is about balancing “socioeconomic factors," not race. Then why include this self-contradictory language? Make no mistake, it is on purpose. The lawyers who coached the County Council on the wording and positioning of this resolution WANT us to feel this confusion. I have to say, masterfully deceptive.

Think about it. Who can oppose a resolution that supports “integration” without being called a racist? Even I feel it right now, and I have a mixed race family myself. Brilliantly, there is no way to publicly oppose it without having at least a smell of racism. You lose before you even start. By choosing to use the term “integration” in the headline, the lawyers have stacked the deck against thoughtful opposition or discussion of the actual topics sought to be addressed.

As we all know, in today’s sound bite world details are often superfluous (think Donald Trump). How can I oppose “integration” and not be called a racist? Brilliant tactic! But the people of Howard County aren’t as naïve and sheepish as you might think. Because we realize that this characterization is intentionally deceptive. This entire thing is about economic disparity. Fine, let’s debate and talk about this and how and if we should solve each of these issues at the county level. But don’t call it “integration” to intentionally deceive.

Why should we trust that this county council will be fair and balanced when even the very first line of the resolution is intentionally deceptive?

Carl Manganillo, Ellicott City

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