Shoes are for walking

March 25, 1991

We have the uneasy feeling that City Councilwoman Sheila Dixon may have done herself a regrettable but lasting disservice with her dramatic gesture with her shoe last week. As has been amply reported, Dixon took off her shoe to dramatically underscore her statement, which was ominous enough in its own right: "You've been running things for the last 20 years. Now the shoe is on the other foot. See how you like it."

By "you" she meant her white colleagues on the Baltimore City Council. Dixon's sense of indignation is, no doubt, rooted in demonstrable injustice in the past. The problem is, the gesture bespeaks not reconciliation but revenge. The late, great South African novelist Alan Paton put it so well in his novel, "Cry, the Beloved Country," when his principal black character laments: "I have one great fear in my heart, that when they [the white men] turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating."

Revenge, either in rhetoric or gesture, should have no place in a city like Baltimore where the great tradition of tolerance, if not always well-honored, goes all the way back to the Calvert regimes. In the spirit of that tolerance, we're prepared -- and hope others are as well -- to forget that shoe episode as an ill-advised gesture in a moment of overheated political passion.

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