ANNAPOLIS, Md. — While outrage over a Harford County Delegate’s use of an ethnic slur in describing Prince George’s County has grown, the county’s executive pressed for accountability beyond rebuking the comment or calling for resignation, instead demanding the addressing of the systemic disadvantages that challenge her constituents as much or more than casual racism.
As reported by the Washington Post, Harford County Del. Mary Ann Lisanti told a colleague he was campaigning in Prince George’s in a “n***** district.” The two were at an after hours event at an Annapolis cigar bar. When the District 34 Democrat was questioned by the Post about the incident Tuesday, she said she did not recall this exact instance, but said she was sure she had used terms like the n-word before, and that other people have used that term too.
“After we are finished feeling enraged about the delegate’s comments,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks at a press conference held Wednesday, “we have to likewise feel enraged about the fact that children in this county do not have an equal opportunity to be educated, or to have the funding that they need.”
Alsobrooks catalogued the $8 million in repairs schools in her county need, saying students sit in moldy and mildewy classrooms and teachers don’t get paid what they deserve. She expanded that inequity further, talking about the need to combat food deserts and a pervasive attitude that promotes the systemic racism that fosters the inequity she sees for her community.
“She’s not alone,” Alsobrooks said. “One of the most disturbing things she said was 'doesn’t everyone feel this way?'" Alsobrook said referring to Disanti's opinions being widely held. ".... It's a deeper point that she's making is that we're somehow inferior."
Alsobrooks cited the original Post article disclosing Lisanti’s comments, but said another article ran on the paper’s pages describing a $32 billion gap in education funding between minority majority districts and their white majority counterparts nationwide.
“If we really care about equity and inclusion in this country then we won’t just get stuck on the word that the delegate used,” Alsobrooks said. "We ought to be stuck as well on the things that will move us forward.”
Lisanti has since apologized for the remarks. She sat with the Maryland Black Legislative Caucus, of which Prince George’s County’s delegates are members, including Del. Michael Jackson and Del. Daryl Barnes, who flanked Alsobrooks at the podium. Lisanti was also stripped of her role as chair of the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee. Alsobrooks believes Lisanti should step down, though she does not think that would solve the larger problems. Alsobrooks had little regard for Lisanti generally.
“Delegate Lisanti in so many ways is a dinosaur in terms of her thoughts and views – unenlightened and ignorant,” Alsobrooks said, alluding to the prehistoric beasts while relating advice her father shared about not worrying about people who care to feed dinosaurs. “Anyone who is that ignorant should resign or should be fired.”
Alsobrooks said Lisanti’s opinions “mean nothing to us,” as the Harford delegate represents communities 100 miles north of the executive’s county, and PG residents proudly know who they are. Instead of continuing to condemn the thoughtless comments of one delegate, Alsobrooks said her and her Prince George’s County colleagues were about to enter a meeting to fight for the education spending the county needs.
“This is my frustration. Am I outraged by her comments? Of course. … I’m also likewise just as enraged that we get stuck right here and never really address the things that would move this forward,” Alsobrooks said. “I’m so tired of these news stories that last for 24 hours or 48 hours and then the conditions remain the same. … Let’s not continue to have the same conversations over and over again. Let’s do something about it.”