I thought common sense would prevail; therefore, while I shared my opinion with my constituents and others who asked, I assumed it was unnecessary to publicly comment about Baltimore County Public Schools' Superintendent Dallas Dance's post-election retweet was unnecessary ("The Dance tweet," Nov. 14). After seeing this body of opinions regarding exclusion and bigotry continue, I could not in good conscience allow a man I know to have the best interest of all of our students at heart be cast in the light he has been cast.
The retweet was meant to be supportive of populations targeted by the bigoted language of our president-elect, and an acknowledgment of the racially hostile environment he has helped to create. However, it has been misrepresented by some as a justification to call for the firing of a very capable superintendent. The retweet's characterization as divisive, "racist and non-inclusive", "biased against a specific race," and "racist and biased toward white students" is simply unwarranted. Now, I have relationships with most of the public officials who have commented, and I do not question the motives behind their characterizations. I do ask them to look at the larger picture; context matters and context is needed in framing this discussion.
The communities Mr. Starr highlighted have all been subject to legally-sanctioned racial subjugation in the United States during the 20th century, whether it be the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred the immigration of Chinese laborers, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the use of the Naturalization Act of 1790 to disqualify Arab Christians and Muslims from citizenship, or Jim Crow and a plethora of other discriminatory laws used to deny blacks and Jewish citizens various rights. This was during the lifetime of many Americans who are still living, and unfortunately the hatred directed at these communities is still bearing its ugly fruit today. Historical facts may be viewed as inconvenient, but they are certainly necessary for understanding the anxiety which many people have.
Proverbs 10:12 tells us that "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." For more than a year, our president-elect has fanned the flames of intolerance and stirred up strife in our country. Unfortunately, Baltimore County has not been exempt from this environment of intolerance. A Towson church was vandalized with hateful words smeared in feces calling congregants "F***ing ni***rs". Additionally, there have been Muslim and Latino students within BCPS who have expressed fear to their teachers that they or their family members would be deported after this election. These are not anecdotes but stories shared with me. It was even reported that a student supporter of the president-elect in Rockville was wrongly assaulted. I am not surprised that some of our children would be adversely affected and are now concerned for their safety; strife has been stirred.
Asians make up 6.8 percent of the BCPS student body, but when the president-elect suggested cutting off immigration from the Philippines and mocked Chinese and Japanese businesspeople stating "We want deal" in a fake accent, I could not find any words of conciliation for this population of students from these same public officials now calling for Mr. Dance's resignation. Latinos make up 8.2 percent of the BCPS student body, but when the president-elect called Mexicans "rapists" and then broadened his comments about criminality to all of Latin and South America, none of these public officials expressed concern. Let us not forget about his repeated calls for bans against Muslims or his anti-Semitic dog-whistling meme, which included a Star of David over a pile of cash calling Hillary Clinton the "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever." Maya Angelou said, "When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time."
Suggesting a tweet by Mr. Star, a white man, and retweeted by Mr. Dance, a black man, was "racist and biased toward white students" would be laughable if it was not so serious that our policymakers felt the need to act. Was your voice drowned out by the volume of the president-elect's bigoted lambast? Your silence is truly deafening! That is why your accusations of racism ring hollow to me. The accusations are an affront to those who truly experience the isms and phobias stirred by the president-elect.
The next time you visit an elementary school ask its students whether they think a child bullied today should be shown some extra love tomorrow. Given their character lessons, I am sure most of the children will say give the bullied child an extra hug. Then ask the students whether this extra attention makes them feel excluded; I am sure their answer will be no. Children understand and adults need to understand that empathy is not a zero sum game, expressions of support for one do not have to be interpreted to exclude any child. And if there are students who feel excluded, for whatever reason, please know that you are loved as well.
Del. Charles E. Sydnor III, Baltimore
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 44B in Baltimore County.