Commentary

printed 07/23/2021

A Baltimore Sun story last week upset some Ocean City residents and fans when it made a point of referring to the resort’s racist history. Their angry reaction to that assertion, however, might have been less about history and more about whether the writer had the standing to mention it.

In that respect, it’s like the child who calls his parent a name after getting spanked in front of his friend, but then takes offense when the friend repeats it.

In other words, we can say Ocean City has a racist history, which, of course, it does, but references to that history aren’t well-received when they are presented as judgments by people who live elsewhere and perhaps know less about the community.

The truth is most Maryland towns, cities and counties have a history of post-Civil War racism. In 2017, for instance, The Sun had this to say:

“Baltimore County has a history of overt racial segregation. In the 1970s, it was famously described by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as a "white noose" around the city. The county executive at the time made keeping Blacks out a central policy goal of his administration. Real estate agents were at one point actually instructed to inform the police chief if they sold Baltimore County homes to Blacks.”

Additionally, although Ocean City restaurants integrated earlier in the 1960s, Baltimore City restaurants did not fully integrate until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and the courts voided the trespassing charges against several Black students who conducted a sit-in at a restaurant in 1960.

Of note is that one of those students was Robert M. Bell, who would go on to distinguish himself as chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals from 1996-2013.

The point, however, is not that racism in one place makes racism in another slightly more acceptable. It doesn’t. We all have to face the truth that racism has and continues to exist in varying degrees throughout the state and country.

We can disagree on tactics and we can argue about responsibilities, but it remains that we all have the same obligation to fight against it no matter where we live.

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