Baltimore and bigotry

Our view: Where others might view the unruly mob behavior on St. Patrick's Day at the Inner Harbor as criminal, one delegate sees 'black youths'

May 17, 2012

It is always tempting to ignore the bluster and bombast emanating from the vicinity of Patrick L. McDonough, the Baltimore County delegate and radio talk show host who considers himself a man of the people but mostly is a self-promoting bomb-thrower. His is a career built on angry sound bites and finger-pointing, particularly at minority groups, while his actual legislative accomplishments in Annapolis can be contained in a thimble — with room to spare.

But his latest bloviation demands attention — if only because ignoring it might suggest it was excusable (which it was not) or something other than blatant racism (which it was). To paraphrase Will Rogers, once ignorance gets started, it knows no bounds.

Delegate McDonough issued a press release this week entitled "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays" that invites reporters to attend a "press conference" on the subject at noon on Friday at WCBM, which broadcasts his show. In his one-page release, the delegate frets that the "image of Baltimore is suffering" and then fatuously suggests that Gov.Martin O'Malleydeclare the city's harbor area a "no travel zone."

Why is the race of those involved in criminal behavior pertinent? It isn't, of course. People are people. Criminals are criminals. One doesn't have to be of any particular race to break the law. Yet after Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. challenged his "race-baiting" tactics during the last day of the special session, Mr. McDonough decried the criticism as "political correctness on steroids."

Sorry, but it isn't even steroid-free political correctness. Political correctness is when there's excess sensitivity to race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Race is simply irrelevant in this instance. That those involved in the St. Patrick's Dayincidents at the Inner Harbor were black is no more pertinent than their height, weight or eye color. Why is it so important to the delegate?

Had the St. Patrick's Day incident involved roaming groups of white youths, would it have been more acceptable? Less scary? Would Mr. McDonough have issued a news release headlined "White Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays"? His views are, as Mr. Mitchell described them, a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s. That's when "breaking the block" — the prospect of an African-American or other minority moving into one's neighborhood — was enough to send whites fleeing to the suburbs in a middle-class diaspora that continues to haunt the city.

It's also reinforced by the delegate's suggestion that no one should visit the Inner Harbor, one of the state's most popular tourist attractions. Would Mr. McDonough offer the same suggestion in the wake of crimes committed in his own legislative district? It's always easier to blindly hate people who are outside one's base of support.

Earlier this week, we chastised Baltimore officials for playing down the extent of the problems that took place over St. Patrick's Day. After reviewing several hours of dispatch tapes and talking to eyewitnesses, The Sun's Peter Hermann discovered the mob was far more unruly and the situation more difficult and threatening than police had let on. His reporting also documented how ill-prepared the city was to deal with the sudden appearance of hundreds of young people downtown on an unusually warm spring day.

But to the best of our knowledge, police never hid the race of those accused of any crime. It was simply irrelevant — the equivalent of mentioning whether they were wearing Nike or Under Armour brand athletic shoes. And race was never cited as a motivating factor for any of those involved in any of the reported violence that took place.

Yet with his own attack, Mr. McDonough has single-handedly given city officials justification for withholding information from the public. After all, they now know there's an irresponsible politician itching to exaggerate the extent of the threat and give people the false impression that the Inner Harbor is especially unsafe — no matter that the facts (and falling city crime rate) don't support that view.

Known outside his district primarily for championing anti-immigrant legislation in Annapolis, Mr. McDonough may seem a mere buffoon to his colleagues, but his rants can't go unchallenged. That he might personally profit from outrageous behavior in the form of higher ratings on his radio show makes it all the more distasteful.

At minimum, the delegate's behavior deserves to be more broadly condemned by his fellow legislators. Perhaps it even fits the definition of "disorderly or disrespectful behavior" that could be sanctioned with a two-thirds majority vote under Article III of the Maryland constitution. Certainly, it's a view that brings shame to him, his party and his constituents in Baltimore and Harford counties.

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