Words matter. What you call someone or something matters.
This is alarming. A violent confrontation right at the Inner Harbor during rush hour and just before an Orioles game. (Motorist shot to death after pulling baseball bat in confrontation with downtown Baltimore squeegee workers,” July 7.) That’s going to deter folks from going downtown.
The article refers to the people who stand on the corner with squeegee as “squeegee workers.” That implies that they are performing a valid occupational activity. They’re not. They’re panhandlers with squeegees. That’s what they are, and that’s what we should call them. Having said that, we come to two other points. We need to decide what we should call the incident that was committed at the intersection of Light and E. Conway streets.
First, no matter what the panhandlers did to the motorist’s car, there appears to be no justification for him to go after them with a baseball bat, whether he hit anyone or not. A baseball bat is a deadly weapon. Second, because a baseball bat is a deadly weapon, shooting the man might be considered self-defense. The squeegee panhandlers likely ran away because they knew the police wouldn’t see it that way, but here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that the man with the baseball ball was Black and the person who shot him was white. A clearer case of self-defense, right?
What you call something really does matter.
— Henry Farkas, Pikesville