It is time that we dispel the mythology around Maryland being a political progressive state. Being a Democrat in Maryland is pretty meaningless as an indicator of your political ideology or values. We live in a state in which a 3rd of the population is made up of Black people, yet the Maryland General Assembly were not able to pass any substantive law enforcement reform to address the issue of police brutality. This is a disgraceful fact in the light of the recent report that was published by the ALCU that reveals that 109 people since 2010 have been killed at the hands of law enforcement.
All this points to a fundamental lack of understanding about what progress looks like as it relates to issues of racism in America. Including individual Black people in high level institutional positions is not a substantive challenge to racism. Having a Black Lieutenant Governor, Black elected officials, Black friends etc are not substantive challenges to racism. That type of inclusion has the affect of putting a Black face on an institution that is adversely affecting Black people. We have to have a more sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of racism that goes beyond the symbolic gestures of inclusion and toward an analysis that centers around substantive improvements in the quality of life of Black people.
The General Assembly’s failure to move any substantive legislation on this issue, and the silence of the leadership in Annapolis on this issue is an example of institutional racism. This claim unfortunately frightens people because people often don’t have the requisite literacy on issues of racism and quite frankly the emotional maturity to understand that the charge of institutional racism is not about individual attitudes or character flaws, but about the effect that an institution has on the people it serves.
The leadership in the Maryland General Assembly should be embarrassed that it could not get anything done to address the issue of police brutality in Maryland this year. This is such a major national issue that affects people here in Maryland. It would be disingenuous to proclaim Maryland to be such a progressive state if it did not have the will to pass something substantive on the issue of police brutality.
Dayvon Love is the Director of Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and former national debate champion.