Maryland Against Hate
Xenophobia, racism and hatred have been on the rise in America. As a result, hate crimes have skyrocketed. Maryland is not exempt, hate crimes in Maryland have risen 79 percent from 2016-2017. Racial epithets have been found in elementary schools. Two teenagers hung a noose outside of a middle school. A University of Maryland student, tied to a white supremacist facebook group, has been indicted for the murder of a black Bowie State student. To protect those that are most vulnerable, Maryland residents and our law enforcement need to better understand, respond to and report hate crimes.
What We’re Doing
Our Voices Matter (OVM) has been making the case for legislation that would require hate crime training for law enforcement in Maryland. Additionally, OVM is assembling a coalition of organizations to advocate for this issue (see supporting organizations below). While working on this effort we’ve consulted law enforcement, public officials, organizations, lawmakers and scholars to make sure we fully understand the problem and we can work towards solving it. We’ve worked closely with our sponsors MD Senator Will Smith, Jr. (D-20) and MD Delegate Lesley Lopez (D-39) leading up to the introduction of this bill. Our sponsor in the House, Del. Lopez, alongside 18 co-sponsors, has recently introduced bill HB0699 and scheduled a hearing on February 26th.
Why We’re Doing it
Only fifteen states have legislation requiring hate crime training and as indicated by the Arab American Institute’s report, Maryland is not one of them. Based on their report, we decided to take action to improve Maryland’s response to and reporting of hate crimes.
Training law enforcement is essential to improving Maryland’s response. Effective reporting increases the accuracy of statistics while a appropriate response supports victims and cultivates a safer space for others to come forward in. If passed, this bill would not only require training, it would set the standards for these trainings, ensuring that the trainings are the best they can be. Requiring hate crime training for law enforcement is the first step towards improving our response and combating hate in Maryland. Furthermore, by enacting this legislation Maryland would be following the precedent set by fifteen states, thus improving the response to hate nationally.
What You Can Do
Call or email your representatives in the Maryland Legislature. If they are already a co-sponsor of the bill, thank them and ask them to urge their colleagues to co-sponsor. If they aren’t a sponsor yet, tell them why you care about this issue and urge them to support the bill. If you’ve contacted you representative and you want to do more for the issue, write about it on social media, let your friends know and urge them to contact their representatives.
We would like to thank the following organizations for their help and support on this effort: ACLU Maryland, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Arab American Institute, The Arc Maryland, CASA, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, Chevy Chase United Methodist Church, Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland chapter of the National Organization Women, the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, OCA-DC and Our Voices Matter.
For more information on hate crimes in Maryland
The Baltimore Sun’s Data Base on all hate crime reports made to Maryland Law Enforcement
For more information on hate crimes in America
The Arab American Institute’s Report on Hate Crimes in America: Underreported, Under Threat, with a hate crime report card per state.