Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tainted Covenant


Hopefully everyone in the Cape is by now aware of the offensive language that continues to be a part of our community covenant.  The CSC Improvement Association took an admirable stand this year and decided it was time to do something about it.  They invoked an obscure piece of legal mumbo jumbo that stated that the covenant could be changed with 85% approval from our residents, and a ballot was included with this year's homeowners association bill making it as simple as possible for us to vote on the change.

Last night, a resolution was put before the County Council asking for their approval as Cape property owners to change the language.  You can find Resolution 47-10 at:

http://www.aacounty.org/CountyCouncil/pendingLegis.cfm

It was passed by the council unanimously (thanks for the e-mail and for representing the Cape, Sam).  This takes care of one hurdle in the path to changing the covenant.  While many have responded, I believe more votes are required from Cape residents to get to the requisite 85%.  Over the summer, I asked CSCIA Board of Governors President, Sam Gallagher, where we stood, and a few hundred votes were still needed.

This evening, I got caught by a camera crew from NBC news (I'm not sure if it was the Baltimore or DC affiliate - both have covered this story in the past) interviewing Capers down at the shopping center about their opinion of the covenant language (I guess the county council docket triggered the interest).  I was asked if I was aware of the language, how I felt about it, why I thought it was still in the covenant, and how I would feel if it doesn't get changed.  While I do pretty well expressing myself on a keyboard, public speaking is not my forte, and I fear - no I know - my passionate feelings about the issue did not come across as eloquently as I would have liked on camera.  I'm hoping they do some judicious editing.  If anyone saw me on the 11 o'clock news, cut me some slack.

Had I been better prepared, here's what I would have liked to have said for everyone to hear.  How do I feel about the offensive language in the covenant?  While I understand that it was common practice in community covenants written in the early part of the 20th century and allowed to remain in them even after the Supreme Court ruled the documents unenforceable in 1948 and then after they were ruled unconstitutional by the Fair Housing Act that was passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, it utterly escapes me how anyone in 2010 could consider this type of exclusionary and bigoted language to be either legal or acceptable by any standard of human decency.  It is wrong on so many levels that it makes my head spin.

Why do I think it's still in the covenant?  I expect a lot of people in the Cape were not even aware that the language existed since it's blacked out in the document.  I did not know about it until several years ago.  Those who do know about it were probably satisfied that it was crossed out - out of sight out of mind.  And then inexplicably, I guess there are some who actually support leaving the language in the covenant evidenced by the few votes so far that have been returned in favor of keeping it.  The CSCIA frankly hasn't had a lot of options for making the change until the new 85% criterion was discovered.

How will I feel if this effort is not successful and the language does not get removed?  In a word, ashamed.  I would be ashamed of this community and frankly embarrassed to live here.  There is simply no place for this kind of bigotry and discrimination in our world.  There are few things of which I am absolutely sure, but I am clear and confident in my belief that this language is perverse and that anyone who thinks it should remain is a racist and dead wrong.  While people may not be responsible for an upbringing that made them racist, they are responsible for remaining so.  I understand the fears and insecurities that feed into this form of hatred, but we have to rise above those fears and recognize them for what they are - our own weaknesses and failures.

For anyone who thinks that they agree with the language in the covenant, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say these words out loud:

"At no time shall any lot or any part thereof be sold, leased, transferred to or permitted to be occupied by any Negro, Chinaman, Japanese, or person of Negro, Chinese, or Japanese descent"

If you can say that without knowing in your gut how wrong it is, then try this.  Substitute White Person for Negro, Chinaman, and Japanese and see how that makes you feel.  If you still are OK with this language, then you are truly in the minority who deserves to be excluded.  And I don't buy the argument that it's not worth the effort to remove because it's unenforceable anyway.  The CSC covenant is a living, functioning document, and it should represent the values and lifestyle of today's Capers.  I don't want me or anyone else in this neighborhood to have to make excuses to reporters anymore.

For those of you who have not yet placed your vote, please stop by the clubhouse during office hours and submit one.  OK, if you're one of the freaks who disagrees then please crawl back in your hole and stay there.  This language needs to go ASAP so we can get on with the business of being the responsible and gracious 21st century community of which so many of us strive to be a part. If we still don't have the votes, and going door to door is the next step, then sign me up. www.tips-fb.com

2 comments:

Louis said...

Christy:

I think that it is important to note that the covenants also include a clause that requires 100% of the homeowners to vote on any changes to the covenants. That is why the $10 maintenanace fee has remained unchanged for over 60 years. It forced the BOG to seek the status of a Special Community Benefit District in order to raise the funds needed to support our community property (of which there is about 25 acres), maintain the clubhouse, and provide additional security. Many covenanted communities had similar language governing changes to the covenents. The legislature realized that certain changes to covenants should have a lower bar to overcome restrictive or illegal language, hence the 85% rule.

Lou Biondi

Christy said...

Thanks Lou. That 100% would be tough to achieve with a community of 10 and absolutely impossible with the number of homes in our community today. Thank goodness the legislature granted some breathing room. I'm excited to be able to get this old language removed!