Even in Op-Eds, Facts Matter

Sonia Shah makes a good point about Baltimore County, but immediately blows up her credibility in the process

1866 Map of Maryland Counties

Today’s Baltimore Sun featured an op-ed from author, science journalist and activist Sonia Shah who wrote about a piece entitled “Untying the ‘white noose’ of Baltimore County.”

Buried underneath the clickbaity title, Shah makes a good point: Democrats in Baltimore County are intentionally using their redistricting powers to continue to suppress minority representation in the country. Similarly to how Democrats have nibbled at the edges of district changes in Anne Arundel County for years, Democrats are nibbling at the edges when it comes to County Council districts to ensure six majority white districts.

The problem is that Shah destroys all of her credibility with this nugget:

Baltimore County was founded to exclude Black people from white neighborhoods. Just look at the map. Almost every other metro area across the nation is connected to the city that drives its culture and economy. Not majority-white Baltimore County, which has carefully drawn its strange contours around the cutout of majority-Black Baltimore City.

The basic premise of this makes a lot of sense if you have no idea what you are talking about, as Shah clearly does not.

Her wildly incorrect assertion is that “Baltimore County was founded to exclude Black people from white neighborhoods.” Baltimore County was founded no later than 1659. That was at least seventy years before the existence of Baltimore City. I don’t think that Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, had racial considerations in mind when he was creating Baltimore County from the three counties in Maryland that existed at the time (Anne Arundel, Kent, and St. Mary’s Counties).

Baltimore City was not founded until 1729. It was not incorporated as a city of any kind until 1797.

1836 Map of Baltimore

Furthermore, Baltimore City was not separated from Baltimore County until 1851. That was not done by Baltimore County separating itself from “Black neighborhoods” but by the State as part of the Constitution of 1851.

Baltimore City was smaller than it was now. It continued to annex land in both Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties until it reached its present shape in 1918.

Baltimore County was not “ founded to exclude Black people from white neighborhoods as Shah so nonchalantly claims. It’s borders are not established based on racial lines. The Baltimore City-County line used to be at North Avenue until the annexations began. It was the appetite of Baltimore City government for a larger taxbase that set the wheels in motion for Baltimore County to look the way it does.

Baltimore County in 1857 with Baltimore city, in red

None of this information is hard to find. The State literally makes it available for free.

For somebody who is an author and a “science journalist” (though her Twitter feed would make you think she was little more than a left-wing operative) you would think Shah would have conducted some basic research or asked somebody before submitting an op-ed to The Sun with such blatant historical falsehoods in it.

It was makes one wonder why The Sun printed it with such glaring historical errors, but that is of little surprise.

It’s unfortunate that Sonia Shah took a valid point and discredited it by blowing up her credibility by not fact-checking her basic assertions. Those seeking to make more fair and balanced districts in Baltimore County deserve a better champion than this.