No place for a Nazi sign in our community at Columbia, Maryland
By Dr. Chao Wu, Clarksville, MD
November 29, 2016
(I sent this article to Columbia Flier and Baltimore Sun and did not get any response. So I am publishing it here first.)
I was shocked to see a swastika painted at my neighborhood playground over the Thanksgiving holiday. Many residents, including myself, take our kids there to play, socialize and enjoy this beautiful neighborhood. None of us expected this type of vandalism, with its links to Nazism, fascism, and racism, to happen in the community.
Our city of Columbia prides itself in honoring diversity and being civic-minded. I understand the 2016 presidential election was very divisive. In many other places, campaign signs were destroyed, houses were vandalized, and contentious words were exchanged. However, a swastika sign in the neighborhood is still a huge shock to the many people who live here.
Since its inception in the 1960’s, Columbia has been a driving force for promoting mutual respect and building community harmony. The two most recent speakers in Columbia Association’s Community Building Speakers Series, Rob Breymaier, Executive Director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, and Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, UMBC President, discussed Columbia’s founding principles of diversity and inclusiveness. This Saturday, December 3, 2016, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Bain 50+ Center in Columbia, County Executive Allan Kittleman will hold the first forum in his #OneHoward Initiative, which is designed to promote community dialogue and reinforce the county’s shared goals of diversity and inclusiveness.
Our community is now at a turning point with more changes to come. Following the County Council’s passage of the Downtown-related legislation several weeks ago, Columbia’s population is expected to increase by additional 20,000 residents. We can expect the area to become more diverse than ever – culturally, racially, educationally, and economically.
From my perspective, respecting and celebrating diversity needs to be practiced. What really matters is how we view ourselves and others with respect, how others view themselves and others with respect, and whether we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We need a common sense solution to create a shared future that is inclusive of everyone. This work needs to occur within our family, within our schools, at the workplace, and in our neighborhoods.
We also need a continuous, open and honest discussion on diversity and inclusion such that all groups should be heard with humility. The conversation should happen not only among people who are likely-minded, already vocal and visible in the community, but also from those who are usually left out by the main media. This requires extra effort to reach out. It also requires a heart with true tolerance especially when other opinions may be quite different, even offensive.
Diverse thoughts, mutual understanding, and truth-seeking are the keys to finding such a solution. There should never be a place for a Nazi swastika in our community. We are not afraid by its occurrence, but we need to be vigilant and continue working to achieve a safe and peaceful community.