A note with racial overtones and a knotted rope found in an East Baltimore firehouse early yesterday triggered a probe by the city's fire and police departments, and the FBI has begun its own preliminary investigation into possible civil rights violations.
Standard procedure, find the noose and then start the investigation. But let's read on. for the standard reaction:
In a written statement, Mayor Sheila Dixon said she was "outraged by this deplorable act of hatred and intimidation. ... Threats and racial attacks are unacceptable anywhere -- especially in a firehouse."
Hey, I agree with her. I find nothing wrong with what she said.
But here's the point I want to make:
The act is discovered, the investigation begins. At some point the investigation will be over, we hope we can learn who did it, and prosecute them. But as we have learned before, the person responsible may not have racist intentions. And yes, I am going to point back to the recent GWU incident, where the person that filed the complaint was actually the one that did the deed.
It happens. That's why it's wise to keep quiet until the whole story is better known.
But more than this, we must take something into consideration. We have to, if we want to have any realistic chance of getting this to stop (or at least slow it considerably).
Once many years ago, the Klan staged a rally at the Indiana State House. People raised hell. They didn't want them to be here. I didn't want them to be here. But in the mix of things, there was little that could be done about it. Why? Because it was their constitutional right to look stupid on government property.
There was a counter rally held just a few blocks away on Monument Circle. Both rallies spilled over and into each other and presto, chango, abracadbra, we had Indianapolis on CNN Headline News hourly for the next 24 hours. Networks and local news outlets carried it too. Publicity and exposure led to more notoriety.
To sum it up, they got what wanted. Attention. And you know what? They came back the next year. But, the outcome was different.
A scene wasn't made about their visit. It was mentioned in passing on the news. The counter rally was held several miles away, this time. They got very little attention. Both rallies drew about 20-30 people to see the Klan, the rest were the protesters. Protesters gone, scene not made, trouble averted. Attention not gained.
Fast-forward to today and this noose crap.
Whether these acts are motivated by racists or instigators, the more attention we give to these people, the more they are going to do this. I said it then and I am saying it now: Don't give this stuff the time of day and it will go away faster. As long as they can get this kind of outrage and provoke this kind of response, they're going to keep it up.
Unless of course, you don't really want this to go away, because your job depends on it.