The following statement was issued on March 9th:

Racial Equity Task Force Issues Joint Statement on March 4, 2021 Public Hearing

The Racial Equity Task Force was formed on October 5th, 2020. The County Council voted to approve CR 142-2020, which through legislation, established the first Racial Equity Task Force for Howard County. The Task Force is charged with recommending legislation to the County Council to address racial disparities and inequities in Howard County. There are six different subgroups to the task force to look at these disparities. They are Economic and Workforce Development, Education, Public Health and Environmental Policy, Land Use and Housing Policies, Legislative Process and Personal and Public Safety. All six subgroups are looking at many areas of inequities and disparities in Howard County.

On March 4, 2021, during a public hearing for the Racial Equity Task Force, a member of the community called in to testify. During his testimony, he made hateful, racist remarks targeting immigrants, including Asian, and Latinx members of our community. These comments are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of this Task Force. We stand together, and with immigrants, including Asian, and Latinx communities, to unequivocally denounce and condemn this, and all, hateful rhetoric.

This particular public hearing created a limited forum for the public to express their views regarding racial equity in Howard County directly to the Task Force. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the Task Force from discriminating against a speaker based on their viewpoints, even if these viewpoints are offensive to us. Every person who signed up to testify at the public hearing was allotted three minutes to speak on the topic of racial equity in Howard County without comment or questions by the Chairs or the County Council staff. The Task Force meets regularly and the public is encouraged to attend these meetings. It is in these subgroup meetings where the members of the Task Force often express their own views regarding racial disparities in this county.

There have been some negative comments on social media regarding Mr. Michael Harris, a Council staff member who was monitoring the time allotted to the public at the hearing. We urge every member of our community to watch the entire hearing before passing any judgment on any Task Force member or staff. At the public hearing, Mr. Harris treated every person the same and would often give a thumbs up to a participant to indicate that the person could be heard or that the person stayed within their allotted time. Many times, one of us would thank a participant for sharing without any comment on whether or not we agreed with the statements made.

On a personal level, Mr. Harris has worked with each of us since this Task Force was formed. He is a consummate professional–a person who treats all people with respect. We know that Mr. Harris has dedicated significant time and energy to the success of this Task Force and to a better, more equitable Howard County. We are grateful for Mr. Harris’s continued participation in this Task Force and, we do not believe it was his intention to hurt anyone. We do, however, acknowledge that community members have been hurt. Without the full context of the meeting, his thumbs up may have been viewed as an endorsement of the hateful comments.

Community dialogue is so important as we work through difficult, hurtful situations. In the essence of inclusion and transparency, we would like to suggest a meeting with Councilman Dr. Jones, Mr. Harris, the additional four Councilpersons, the Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County (CAPA-HC), and other members of our community who were affected by what happened at the hearing.

We also encourage community members to join this important public dialogue by participating in the next hearing. You may find the meeting schedule here: https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/About-Us/Commissions-Task-Forces-and-SpecialReports/Racial-Equity-Task-Force. You may also contact us at racialequitytf@howardcountymd.gov.

Thank you,

Chairpersons, Howard County Racial Equity Task Force


Other articles related to this story:

Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County submits a letter concerning a recent Racial Equity Task Force meeting

Howard County Councilmember Deb Jung statement on the recent anti-immigrant sentiments from a speaker in the RETF public forum on March 4th

Howard County Councilwoman Christiana Rigby statement regarding the “bigoted and anti-immigrant testimony” during the RETF Public Hearing on March 4th

Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County sends a response to Councilman Opel Jones regarding the RETF Public Hearing on March 4th

Howard County Councilmember David Yungmann statement on the controversial testimony during the RETF Public Hearing on March 4th

Howard County Council Member Liz Walsh statement on the “anti-Asian sentiment” of public testimony during the RETF Public Hearing on March 4th

Scott E

6 COMMENTS

  1. Your defense for Mr. Harris is totally unacceptable!

    Mr. Harris stated “Thanks, Bossman” (1:15:17) after the speaker at issue finished his speech. This phrase is used to express one’s approval of a speech or an opinion. And it was the only time he used this phrase throughout the REFT public hearing.

    For six marks in the video recording that councilman Opel Jones mentioned, the cross-checks are found below:

    40:51 Mr. Harris did not have a thumbs-up at this mark. He told the speaker time was up.

    44:41, 55:03,1:08:01: The speakers asked whether they were able to be heard. Mr. Harris’ thumbs-up was to signify to the speaker that he/she could be heard.

    33:49: The speaker finished her speech within the 3 minute time limit. Mr. Harris’ thumbs-up was obviously NOT for timekeeping purpose.

    47:54: Mr. Harris reminded the speaker his time was up and the speaker stopped speaking right away. Then the video had a broken segment. After a few seconds of pause, Mr. Harris had his thumbs-up. One can reasonably conclude that this thumbs-up was an indication that he was ready for the next speaker.

    After a careful review of these 6 video segments, we concluded that none of the five thumbs-ups (no thump up at 40:51, one of the 6 time marks you provided) were for timekeeping purpose.

    In addition, we carefully reviewed other parts of the public hearing. When the time limit was reached indicated by the sound of the timer he set up, Mr. Harris verbally communicated with the speaker by saying “time’s up” or “thank you for sharing”. He did NOT use a thumbs-up for timekeeping purpose during any of the speeches (11:50, 16:45, 22:45, 40:39, 44:15, 1:01:30).

    His “Bossman statement”, along with his thumbs-up, demonstrated Mrs. Harris was strongly in agreement with the hate speech against Chinese and Korean Americans, and all immigrants who live in Howard County.

    I urge you immediately retract your defense to Mr. Harris from your statement!!!

    I urge you to immediately remove Mr. Michael Harris from task force in which he is not fit for after his racist action towards Asian Americans and immigrants. Racism, no matter who is practicing it, is evil.

    This statement will only further damage your reputation as a racial equity committee.

    We will not rule out further actions if racial discrimination is tolerate by your group!

    So ridiculously!!!

    Tony

  2. As usual, no one would’ve made a peep if the supposed ‘hate speech’ had been made against any white person, or people, for any reason. Tony Du isn’t sincere when he tries to make people believe he cares about hate, so-called, directed at anyone. This is MD. and HoCo after all and whites are ràrely thought of. Welcome to the 21st century.

  3. I’m getting tired of bully (demanding) comments. Like someone said a couple weeks ago, it appears that approx. 100 plus people (left and right) are demanding actions against some person or group in HoCo. “The tail wagging the dog.”

    Everyone screws up. We are all human. Just say “don’t do that again”. If you are looking for perfection, you are not going to find it.

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