Monday night the Montgomery County Sentinel sponsored a community forum on the subject of hate crime.
We invited civic leaders, county council members, our local police chief and someone from the Help Save Maryland organization.
This prompted telephone calls, some our office manager deemed “harassing” and several emails – one of which said that in tolerant Montgomery County we could not tolerate an organization like Help Save Maryland.
Every member of the symposium, myself included was advised by residents who identified themselves as being from Takoma Park, to disinvite the representative from Help Save Maryland or, alternatively, we were advised not to show up for the forum. One disgruntled letter writer said she would show up with hundreds of protesters. Another asked if I had invited HSM why didn’t I just invite the KKK.
In fact, we did invite the KKK. We would’ve invited someone from the Nazi party too, and any other organization deemed alt-right.
Why? As Civil Rights activist Daryl Davis said, “A fireman goes to the fire.” As police chief Tom Manger said, he never considered not attending the event because you have to stand up.
Help Save Maryland is an organization dedicated to fighting illegal immigration and has been deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center a hate group.
This is exactly why we wanted them to attend – and the KKK and the Nazi party. As Daryl said – you can’t solve a problem by merely talking with people who agree with you.
Daryl, a local African-American musician has a reputation for meeting with members of the Klan and getting to know them. “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” He has famously asked them.
In the end he has – while never setting out to do so – talked some members of the Klan into leaving the organization. In other cases the members of the Klan have given Daryl their robes.
Those who want to discuss and make headway in the fight against hate crimes would be well advised to heed Daryl and Chief Manger’s advice.
You can’t fight intolerance with intolerance. You can’t fight hate with hate.
As someone far more eloquent and brilliant than myself once said – only love conquers hate.
And you absolutely cannot intimidate this newspaper. If you threaten us with protesters you need to bring them – I will sell them subscriptions if nothing else for our excellent sports section.
With that said, The Sentinel appreciates everyone who showed up and all the guests who participated in the event. Only one member of the panel didn’t show – Council member Craig Rice. He confirmed his appearance at 3:30 p.m. but at 4:55 he sent a message to us he had a conflict in his schedule and couldn’t make it after all.
Draw your own conclusions.
In the end former Gaithersburg principal Fred Evans, Ron Halber the executive director of the Jewish Community relations council, Hessie Harris from Help Save Maryland, civil rights activist Daryl Davis, and Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger came to agree on these basic principles to fight hate crimes:
1. If you see a hate crime then speak out against it and condemn it.
2. We need to increase communication among all members of the community to combat the problem of hate crime.
3. We need to not only tolerate one another, but learn to respect one another.
4. We need to stand up for others.
5. The only cure for ignorance is education.
6. You have a right to hate, but you do not have a right to hurt.
7. We need integrated, multicultural curriculum in our schools.
8. We need to be honest with one another.
9. Be eternally vigilant.
10. An attack on one is an attack on all of us.
11. We need to engage in prevention and not just react to hate crimes.
12. Look inside ourselves and value human life.
The last part came from Chief Manger and as I said that night, it is truly the most poignant of observations.
None of us is without fault. None of us can afford to notice the splinter in our neighbor’s eye without noticing the beam in our own.
The Sentinel will continue in its efforts to engage all members of the Montgomery County community as we all search for solutions to the rise in hate crimes.
We hope all of the community, including the council will join us.