Legislators representing the 11th District recently took a unified stand to show their support for tolerance and social justice issues while condemning racism and hate.
It all started last Thursday, June 18, when Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-11th) received an email from Andrew Walen, an upset constituent in Pikesville.
“The gentleman emailed a photograph of his yard,” said Cardin. “There was a Black Lives Matter lawn sign [erected by the constituent] and next to it an ugly racist sign. Apparently, someone installed the racist sign on the constituent’s lawn [the previous] night. The email [from the constitutent] said, ‘I hope you can respond to this.'”
The handwritten sign reads, “If White Life does not matter then your’s [sic] is cheap [expletive] Bootlicken.”
Cardin said he immediately contacted the Baltimore County Police Department about the matter. “They had already been there and started an investigation,” he said. “The police were on top of it, but as of [June 19] they had no leads.”
Cardin then consulted with his fellow elected officials, Sen. Shelly L. Hettleman (D-11th), Del. Dana M. Stein (D-11th) and Del. Lisa M. Belcastro (D-11th), to see if the legislative team could come up with a united and visible response to the racist act and property defacement.
“Of course, we all felt terrible for the constituent who had the racist sign installed in his yard,” said Stein. “Everyone should be able to express his point of view without worrying about someone doing something like that.”
Said Cardin: “I think it was Dana or Lisa who came up with the thought that in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, we should all take pictures of ourselves standing next to our own Black Lives Matter lawn signs. We all quickly took the pictures and did a joint social media post with a joint statement about the incident and about the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The social media post reads, “We support racial equality and the right of citizens to express their views on any topic. That’s why we were appalled when a homeowner in our district who had posted a Black Lives Matter sign on their front yard woke up to find a hateful sign beside it. Imagine the time and energy it took for someone to write this hateful message and to install it on a property that was not their own.
“This is a reminder (as if we needed one!) that racism exists everywhere — and in our own community. As white people, we live with a great deal of privilege and power denied to our black neighbors, constituents, colleagues, and friends. Personally, and as elected leaders, we are committed to learning about the history of systemic racism and working to eradicate it. We are committed to creating a world where privilege is available to everyone, regardless of skin color.
“In solidarity with our neighbor who was wronged, we post Black Lives Matter signs in our yards and encourage you to join us.”
Said Cardin: “The issue is that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. There is no reason why we can’t all treat each other with respect and stick up for people who aren’t treated fairly.
“This [type of racist behavior] is happening all over the place,” he said. “It shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re in Millersville or Pikesville. We all have to remain vigilant to allow everyone to express themselves peacefully.”
Stein noted that his own Black Lives Matter sign was stolen from his property last Saturday night, June 20. He said it was replaced by a handmade sign created by Belcastro until a new official Black Lives Matter sign arrives at his home.
In addition, Stein said a Joe Biden for President sign was reported stolen from a Pikesville yard on June 20.
In a statement posted on Facebook on June 19, Baltimore County Councilman Israel C. “Izzy” Patoka (D-2nd) wrote, “Yesterday in Pikesville, a constituent who posted a Black Lives Matter sign on their lawn woke up to a hateful sign beside it. How dare someone have the audacity to trespass onto private property and commit such a heinous and cowardly act. …
“As a councilman, father, husband, friend and resident, I remain committed to working to eliminate racism, hate, discrimination and prejudice in all forms. Everyone deserves to be treated with the same level of dignity and respectful, regardless of your skin color.”