Residents question goal of racist flier Rental development may have prompted it

October 17, 1995|By ANNE HADDAD | ANNE HADDAD,SUN STAFF

The anonymous distributor of a racist flier might have the same goal as a South Carroll group trying to stop a proposed 250-unit rental townhouse development in Eldersburg.

But the motivation is different, say the leaders.

"As soon as I got it, I threw it in the trash," said Kathleen Horneman, a neighborhood activist with South Carroll Community Coalition. "My reaction was pretty typical of everyone else. I would love to know what type of sick mind generated it, but maybe I don't want to know, because it could be one of my neighbors."

What Ms. Horneman, who is white, found in her news paper box last week was a flier with the face of a black man, apparently Willie Horton, and the words "Folks like good old Willie Horton need affordable housing and access to decent public schools. Bad things happen when good people do nothing. Think about it."

The flier then listed the place and time for a community meeting at Carrolltowne Elementary School last week during which more than 600 residents criticized Carroll County officials for allowing more growth before building schools and roads to accommodate it.

Several residents said they feared crime could follow low-income housing, although the townhouse developer said rents would range from $500 to $800 a month.

Horton is a convicted murderer who raped a Maryland woman while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison. Then-Vice President George Bush came under attack for racism when he used that real-life incident in campaign television ads to defeat Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign.

Ms. Horneman said she and other neighbors wonder whether the flier is the work of an opportunistic racist from outside the community, someone threatened by the Million Man March in Washington yesterday.

"It seems so coincidental that less than a week before the Million Man March, this appeared," she said.

The Carrolltowne area had about a 2 percent black population in the 1990 U.S. Census. But more black families have moved in since 1990.

There have been no blatant acts of racism in the 18 years that Virginia Harrison has lived in the area. Ms. Harrison, who is black, is chairwoman of the county's Human Relations Commission.

But Ms. Harrison said the leaders at the meeting should have decried the flier in public that night.

"Sometimes saying nothing is just as bad as saying it's OK," Ms. Harrison said. "They should say we will not tolerate this, and leave it at that."

Although leaders of the opposition to the development knew of the flier by Wednesday, they did not mention it at that night's meeting.

DTC "We didn't want to dignify it with any acknowledgment," said John Mountcastle, a Carrolltowne resident who found a flier in his mailbox the day of the meeting. He took it with him, in case someone asked, but no one did.

"If anyone had assumed that [it was us], they would have asked, and we would have condemned it," Mr. Mountcastle said.

Mr. Mountcastle said he inferred that the flier had minimal effect, or that people at least distinguished it from the much different-looking fliers that he and other organizers have distributed.

Ms. Harrison said she wonders whether anyone who got the flier -- and agreed with it -- might have attended the meeting, and sensed a tacit approval in the silence. Several people who attended the meeting talked about attracting "the wrong element."

Ms. Harrison, who lives in an 18-year-old development four miles from Carrolltowne, did not receive one of the fliers. "Had I seen that flier, wouldn't I have been at that meeting?" she said.

Still, she said she did not believe the wider community opposition to the development to be racism, but just suburban door-slamming.

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