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The Emboldenment Continues: A saga of small-scale terror in one of America’s most diverse suburbs

28 Jan
This is a second-hand story I heard from my mom this afternoon.
Earlier today, my mother was with her walking group of (mostly) seniors at the Columbia Mall. Afterward they went to Panera for coffee, or as my mom mistakenly called it, Pandora. (She still thinks McDonald’s has the best coffee. Some things in life are mysteries.)

Sitting with her fellow walkers, they were talking and, invariably, Trump’s activities of the last week came up. The bemoaning and groaning started. The incredulity of it all! Then one woman shared her personal story. Another did too. And another.

The first woman is about 80 years old and is from subcontinental India. She has lived in the U.S. since the late ’60s, had a formidable career here, raised a family in Columbia, paid her taxes, contributed to society, yada, yada.

Out grocery shopping a few weeks ago, two white guys came up to her and started harassing her. They told her that she needed to leave the country. Scared, but fiery. She told them that she had lived in America since before they were born.They said they were white supremacists and that she needed to leave. She purchased her items and left the store.

They followed her home.

She wrote down their license plate number and contacted the police, but as no crime had been committed, there was nothing the police could do.

About a week later, she left her house one day to do an errand. She started her car but it was driving strangely. All her tires were flat. Slashed. Dismayed, she told her husband. And he said that he would drive her to her destination. Alas, he couldn’t as all four of his tires were also slashed.

Another woman at Panera this morning told a story of an incident that recently happened to her stepson, a man whose family is from El Salvador but who was born in America and, of course, speaks English fluently. He also speaks Spanish. Recently, he was out and about, talking with a friend in Spanish while on his cell phone when a white guy came by and told him to go back to his country. That he wasn’t welcome here anymore.

And then this clincher: Another woman in her 80s–and a small, petite one at that–was in one of the Howard County libraries recently. She works in the social justice movement, particularly around Palestinian and Jewish issues, and she’d gone to the library to do some research. She was in a quiet area with few people around and was reading some books on the subject when a white man came up to her, pushed all of her books off of the table and said, “If you care so much about this, you should go there and leave this country!”

To a little old lady?

In my hometown of Columbia, Maryland, and Howard County. The land of open arms for diversity.

To those who feel so emboldened as to trample on another’s basic rights and dignity because of some perceived otherness, I say this. I AM ALSO EMBOLDENED. And on my watch, I will do whatever I can to continue the true story of America and Americans: We are all–at the end of the day–of immigrant background. And our strength as a country is in our diversity. Always has been. Always will be.

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