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Howard school redistricting plan uses outdated, inflammatory language

School dismissal at River Hill High School. Howard County Public Schools are contemplating a proposal to redistribute some 7,400 students to different schools in part to address the economic segregation that leaves poor students concentrated in some schools.
School dismissal at River Hill High School. Howard County Public Schools are contemplating a proposal to redistribute some 7,400 students to different schools in part to address the economic segregation that leaves poor students concentrated in some schools.

What does it mean to desegregate schools in the 21st Century? It is unfortunate that the discussion surrounding Howard County redistricting has adopted inflammatory language of our segregated past (“Howard County redistricting setting up opponents to look like racists,” Sept. 6) Elected leaders must stop using this divisive language. I call upon The Howard County Council to unanimously vote “no” on county resolution 112-2019. A unanimous no would send a strong message that we will not inflame our current debate with outdated language. This could be the most courageous vote taken by this council in decades. A no vote is not a vote for segregation. Instead, it is a vote to move our dialogue into the 21st century and away from our past. This vote must be unanimous. This will take great political courage. A split vote either way will do nothing to move us forward.

We must bury the skeletons of the past and began a healthy debate about how to solve some of the most complicated social challenges in the 21st century. A clear example of this outdated resolution is its definition of segregated schools. This bill defines segregated schools as: “schools where less than 40 percent of the student population is white.” In today’s world, we cannot bound our definitions of diversity by our whiteness. Howard County is quickly on a path to become a minority-majority county. The language used in this bill is outdated and should be relegated to our history books.

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We need to reframe the discussion for a new time. Our political debates need to be open, honest and inclusive. All voices must be heard. During this debate, we cannot allow language to divide us into segregationists and desegregationists. We are better than that. There is a lot of common ground in the debate. We need to help the neediest in our community. We need strong, diverse communities. We need to do everything we can to help families raise educated, responsible citizens. We need to raise children with open minds and caring hearts. It is true that we have pockets of great wealth. We also have significant income disparity. Right now, everyone is watching how the Howard County Council will address modern issues of equality in an era of great wealth disparity.

Unfortunately, they are watching our officials use language of our 1950’s segregated past. Segregation is not the debate of our time. Building a diverse, inclusive, well-educated community in an era of great wealth disparity is the debate of our time. Our county and state desperately need this council to muster the courage for a unanimous no vote to county resolution 112-2019. We need a modern debate about how to help families build a better future. We need to bury the past. Be courageous. Lead our state into the 21st century. It is 2019. It is about time we start.

Chad Hawthorne, Columbia

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