Pete Lesher recently proposed removing the Confederate Talbot Boys statue from the Talbot County Courthouse. It is clear from the many letters to the editor, that public opinion supports this proposal.
In 2015, I was frustrated when council members refused to honor the NAACP’s request to remove it.
But I understand why.
I learned this lesson at the workplace. In many meetings, I would propose a solution, only to be ignored, until the end of the meeting, when someone (usually a man) would make the same proposal and the group would applaud him for his solution. I would return from these meetings, steaming, until a team member explained that I wasn’t being ignored, it was just that people needed to go through their process before they were ready to hear the solution.
Floyd’s murder and the “Black Lives Matter” protests have awakened a sleeping majority. I think that most Americans have “gone through their process” and now see the injustice that this statue represents. While it doesn’t fix our problems, its absence will be a powerful symbol of our willingness to address racism.
Some who wish to keep this statue argue that we need to respect history. Yes, these soldiers died for a lost cause, but so did our Vietnam soldiers. What makes this lost cause more special? In fact, it is more unsavory.
The history of the Eastern Shore is a shameful history of slavery. Our soil contains the blood, sweat and tears of enslaved people. The battles to free them did not happen on our soil. But individual bravery to right this wrong did.
Our history boasts of heroes who fought this injustice. Slaves used our rivers and marshland in a desperate and deadly escape to freedom. There were also the Quakers of Third Haven and Freemen and Freewomen at “The Hill” who risked everything to assist them. The risks were significant. Freemen and women who were caught would be enslaved and transported to their deaths in the deep south. Quakers would lose their farms, their freedom and their lives. There is more history, carefully chronicled by our historians. These redemptive stories help to cleanse our soil of the remnants of our dark past.
For those who are pragmatic, it also is an opportunity to increase tourism. Many people are interested in the stories of slaves who escaped, Frederick Douglass and others who sacrificed to end injustice.
Slavery was a deeply troubling institution. Let’s memorialize those risked their lives to end it, rather than those who died trying to preserve it.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.