Damage Of Vandalism, Racism Is More Than Physical

3 CENTS WORTH

January 22, 1992|By Russ Mullaly

There are two subjects I feel a need to address, and in a way both are related: Vandalism and racial incidents in Howard County.

They are related in that many of these occurrences appear to be random in nature. In many of these cases no particular individual is being targeted.

Take, for example, the recent explosions and pipe bombings in theColumbia and Ellicott City areas. These appear not to be the acts ofany terrorist groups, but perhaps only the acts of teen-agers with more time on their hands than they should have. They may have been watching too many movies or too much TV.

In the cases of racial incidents, most of them appear to have no particular individual in mind, just black people in general. Recent examples: The leaving of racist literature in someone's yard, the burning of a cross in front of someone's home, the damaging of a church.

In the case of vandalism, perhaps the perpetrators felt that, "Hey, people have insurance. It's nobig deal. I just felt like I had to blow something up."

If your car is blown up by a pipe bomb, will you feel relieved that it is "nothing personal?" Will it still be "playing around" if an innocent person is injured or killed?

In cases of vandalism or racial crime, there are consequences other than property damage.

Aside from the major inconvenience of having to repair or replace one's personal property, what about the emotional trauma to the victim? Telling such a victim that it was "nothing personal" isn't going to make him or her feel a whole lot better. One cannot put a price on the damage to a person's feelings.

In many cases, the hurt, the fear and the bad feelings take a lot longer to go away than the time it takes to repaint a door or wait for the insurance settlement on a car. The emotional trauma resulting from a few moments of thoughtless behavior can last a lifetime.

When an act of vandalism or racism has occurred, random or not, the victim is left to wonder: "What did I do to deserve this? Do my neighbors hate me? Will 'they' be back? What next?"

We should be a lot more upset about these types of incidents than we are. Just because an act of vandalism or racism didn't happen to you or me, it shouldn't' be written off to "just some punk teen-agers."

The aftermath of one of these "random incidents" may be the victim's sleeping with the lights on for years to come, or moving out of the dream home he worked so hard for, to live in a "safer" place.

Maybe it's buying a gun for protection, which may end up being stolen and used in a crime, or cause the accidental death or injury of a family member.

Or what about the general distrust that a member of a minority may develop for members of the group believed responsible for an act of hate? This further polarizes people and creates a step backward in race relations.

When these offenders are caught, whether they committed an act of racism or vandalism, and admit they were only "goofing around" and that it was "nothing

personal," nothing could be further from the truth. It certainly was personal to the victim.

Sure, it wasn't directed at Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones. It's just a black person, or an Arab, or a Jew. Or maybe just a car in a parking lot. Never mind that this person who was selected to be a representative of his race or ethnic group may be looking over his shoulder for years tocome.

I suppose that if and when the person or persons responsible for the explosions are caught, they will be prosecuted for the property damage. But was property really all that was damaged?

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