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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MD Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs Meets with Frederick Community

Guy Djoken

Last week, on June 18th, the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs met with members of the community in Frederick. The gathering turned into a very emotional presentation with community members from various organizations such as Latinos United, Nuestra Casa del Pueblo, CASA de Maryland along with other concerned residents.

Issues addressed included the escalating incidences of one-on-one blatant hate, verbal abuse, and violence against local Latinos. Some of whom are afraid to report the abuses of Latino residents in Frederick. The Frederick County Sheriff’s office was accused of racial profiling by many participants. Tears, outrage, fear, and a sense of total disappointment was a common reaction by those who testified.

The Commission left Frederick and we are hopeful we will receive recommendations from them. Some individual members expressed to me their disappointment in the Sheriff’s office policies that have created a chilling effect within the immigrant community living and/or working in Frederick County. This meeting was held to inform people about what is going on in Frederick County so that those able and willing to do something to minimize and prevent the abuse of the minority population are aware of the struggle.

In 1985, Cornell law professor Sheri Lynn Johnson reviewed a dozen mock-jury studies. She concluded that the "race of the defendant significantly and directly affects the determination of guilt." In these studies, identical trials were simulated, sometimes with white defendants and sometimes with African Americans. Professor Johnson discovered that white jurors were more likely to find a black defendant guilty than a white defendant, even though the mock trials were based on the same crime and the same evidence. The full study is available at

This study done over 20 years ago is still relevant today at the time when the country is about to elect the first African-American to the highest office of the land. The need to work together is real and we call on those who do not see the wisdom of a coherent community working side by side to fight crime and preserve harmony to reach out to those they do not understand. If they do, they will learn pretty quickly that there is no major difference between various segments of the population.

Criminals are indiscriminate and should be fought using the collaboration and support of all segments of the population. Targeting one segment at the expense of the other is counterproductive. Building a parallel and second class community living in the shadow of fear and deprived from justice is not American.

We hope recommendations of the Commission are forthcoming and will be the catalyst that begins a new era in Frederick where every resident working and paying taxes is respected and appreciated.

Guy Djoken is President, Frederick County, Maryland Chapter NAACP

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