On February 8th I had the privilege of testifying in front of the Maryland House Appropriations Committee in support of bill HB0511. The bill, sponsored by Del. Angela Angel, is designed to track and document hate-bias incidents at Maryland’s public colleges.
As a student at the University of Maryland, I have seen the need for this bill firsthand. Last year our campus saw swastika graffiti, multiple nooses, white nationalist posters, and a confederate flag etching. At least 27 incidents occurred in the last semester, alone. Most painfully, Bowie State student Richard Collins was murdered because of his race.
It is this context, a campus where white supremacy manifests in symbols and in violence, that demands action. Currently hate bias-incident protocol is weak at Maryland public colleges. Del. Angel’s bill would require schools to provide detailed reports of the incidents to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The bill would also require an electronic crime alert notification system to include notification of hate-bias incidents. In addition, it would establish anti-hate bias training for incoming freshmen.
I believe this bill represents common sense steps to track and prevent hate-bias. That is why I went to Annapolis to testify with other college students who saw the need for change. It was powerful to witness the bravery of students who experienced hate firsthand and came to speak. The legislators in attendance were visibly moved by their stories.
I am hopeful that this bill will be the first step in making Maryland colleges safer and more just, especially for students of color. To testify alongside other young people fighting for change was a heartening experience.
I also wrote a column for the University of Maryland newspaper, The Diamondback, in support of the legislation that can be found here. This was my final thought:
The personal and institutional forces of racism that create a culture of hate crimes also work to dismiss the victims. We must start seeing incomplete data on hate crimes and the crimes themselves as part of a larger injustice. In addition to leaving marginalized students vulnerable, a lack of data allows the issue to be dismissed by those who don't see, or choose to ignore, the true scope of racism today. Angel's is the first step in a bigger fight.
Real transparency is, and always has been, necessary for justice. That is why, in response to the murder of [Richard] Collins, students from Bowie State and this university painted a unity mural. The mural, meant to symbolize racial justice, now hangs in the Maryland State House as a vibrant reminder to our legislators. Student artist Aerika Anderson said the mural was based in part on the question, "Where do we go from here?" Angel's bill offers us a worthwhile answer.