Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County (CAPA-HC) board submitted the following letter to the county council members, County Executive, and county’s Racial Equity Task Force to request Mr. Michael Harris’ removal from the RETF and Councilmember Jones’ office. We also demand Howard County public offices, elected officials, and members of RETF to publicly condemn such bigotry, hatred, and racist speech against Asian American minority groups and all immigrants.
Here is the text of that letter:
Dear respected County Councilmembers, Dr. Ball and RETF members,
During the Howard County Racial EquityTask Force (RETF) public hearing on Thursday March 4, 2021 a speaker shockingly spilled out his hatred against Chinese and Korean Americans, and all immigrants who live in Howard County. Even more shockingly, one of the task force members, Michael Harris, who is also Councilmember Or. Opel Jones’ special assistant, gave the hate speech a thumbs-up.
We strongly condemn Mr. Harris’ act of encouraging and celebrating racism against Asian Americans and immigrants, an integral part of the Howard community. His action not only exposed himself as a figure of division and hate but also undermined the institutions he represents. As such, Mr. Harris is not fit to serve in any public function.
With the recent vandalism and burglary of four Asian American owned businesses on the Lunar New Year Day in Howard County and a series of recent attacks on Asian Americans across the country, we do not believe this is an isolated incident. The hate speech Thursday night reflects the spreading racism and hatred against Asian Americans, and* if not stopped» would bring
wider or deeper harms to our community. This also illustrates racism does not simply come from those in power, it could come from every corner of the society; and be just as poisonous
and dangerous. As Dr. Martin Luther King said* “like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.” We call on a reform of the RETF to stop hate in its tracks and restore the public trust* which is ultra-critical to its success.
We respectfully request Mr. Harris’ removal from the RETF and Councilmember Jones’ office. We also demand Howard County public offices elected officials, and members of RETF to publicly condemn such bigotry, hatred, and racist speech against Asian American minority groups and all immigrants. The RETF and our County officials is obligated to take a stand between unity and division, cooperation and hate, and justice and discrimination.
Thank you for your attention and time!
Here is the video clip from the RETF meeting on March 4th that has been shared on social media: (CLICK HERE TO VIEW)
You can watch the full video from the meeting here: https://howardcounty.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=4554
Howard County Councilman Open Jones posted the following comment on Facebook:
It has come to my attention that there are social media posts inferring that my Special Assistant, Michael Harris, was in agreeance with inflammatory and derogatory statements made during last Thursday’s racial equity task force public hearing. This inference is false, and I would never be in agreeance with, nor would any staffer of mine be in agreeance with such repulsive comments.
These social media posts equated my staffer’s timekeeping process, which acknowledged a participant’s time is up and included a thumbs-up or a “thank you for sharing”, as agreement with what was said. His thumbs-up was also used to signify if a speaker could be heard. If you refer to the video in full, not just one instance, you will see this happens several times for multiple speakers (timestamps 33:49, 40:51, 44:41, 47:54, 55:03, 1:08:01).
In no way, would Mr. Harris ever agree with or support this type of dialogue. It is counter to his personal beliefs and our team’s philosophy to advocate for and celebrate the rich diversity within District 2, and Howard County as a whole. We are committed to uplifting all ethnicities within our district and ensuring that their voices are reflected in our district’s progress. We are proud of our partnership with advocacy groups, including the work from past interns in cooperation with the League of Korean Americans (LOKA). I have reached out to both LOKA and the Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County (CAPA-HC) for further discussion.
We will continue our efforts to champion diversity and inclusion across the district and Howard County. That’s what makes our district and county so amazing!
Those are the public comments I have seen on this topic from elected officials and organizations as of this post.