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Reflections on racism near and far: by Bishop Antonio Palmer

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Bishop Antonio Palmer

After a long chat Wednesday April 3, discussing the impact the killing of George Floyd has had on both America and the local community including his congregation, Bishop Antonio Palmer,vice president of United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County, ended his reflections on this moment, by quoting some Bible Scripture he had been reflecting on.

“Rather let justice surge like waters, and righteousness like an unfailing stream.”

--Amos 5:24

It was a scripture quote he said Martin Luther King Jr. had used during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. A half century later, Black Americans continue to find their civil rights ignored, threatened, and violated.

The civil unrest which has taken place since the killing of Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers on May 25 while in front of fellow citizens of all races pleading with the officers to stop, has enraged much of America, and that includes Anne Arundel County.

“The new generation is saying they’re definitely fed up,” Palmer said. “And then how do you manage those emotions? How do you direct with wisdom? How do you articulate the powers that be that still hold up the arms of racism?”

Palmer had some positive comments to say about both Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and county police chief Timothy Altomare. He also recognized that Anne Arundel County has a long history of problems with racism that have continued until today.

While the problems started long before either Pittman or Altomare had come into office, he said it was now their watch and they needed to act.

Palmer said his own congregation of 150 members, Kingdom Celebration Center in Odenton, had been hit hard by Floyd’s killing.

“We all have experienced a great low emotionally, because of knowing that that could have been any one of us, any one of our family” he said. “It's something hard to get over. Because we see it. It’s not the first time. It’s like the thousandth time.”

Palmer had four immediate suggestions for improving the situation in AAC:

  • Create a Civilian Review Board with subpoena power for the Anne Arundel County Police Department

  • Expedite purchase of body cameras for all AAC police officers

  • Create educational equity in the county by examining how funding can be distributed fairly throughout schools. Currently some see the tax-based funding system as regressive since minority communities often contain residents with lower incomes and lower home values.

  • Create economic equity too. He doesn’t see how minority entrepreneurs are being incorporated into efforts to promote Anne Arundel business. “Let’s look at our economic development in our county. Can you tell me where the minority business enterprises are at?” he asked.

Palmer recognized that racism has been here a long time, and free individuals may always have the opportunity to take bad action, but he said, systematic change could help minimize, lessen and correct the problem.

“I want to say that it’s hate,” he said. “We should never have a government system that promotes it or allows it to be tolerated.”

He said he was proud of how protesters had marched in large numbers in Baltimore and elsewhere without violence. He said that more white people were joining the protests now than were even seen during the 1960’s Civil Rights movement.

But he warned that things were going to get worse if substantial change didn’t happen now.

And, like County Executive Pittman earlier in the week he expressed concern that President Trump looked to be leaning towards a totalitarian style of governing.

“We have almost a dictator that’s in office right now as our president,” he said. “I was always taught that you can understand a people by looking at their leader. I’m not saying everyone’s perfect. You can project peace. You can project love and joy.”

He encouraged people to get out and vote this November.

“There’s something we can do about it. The time has come. Every person should search their heart and say ‘What can I do about it? It starts at the local level. It starts with us.”