The past several months have brought momentous change in our country and our state, as we all have grappled with a global pandemic that sadly has claimed too many lives, made so many people sick and brought our economy to a halt.
For some weeks now, we also have been confronted with the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and that of Rayshard Brooks by an Atlanta police officer at a Wendy’s drive-thru.
Those horrifying incidents, which stirred painful memories of the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and too many others, serve as a devastating reminder that institutional racism is still a corrosive reality in our country, and that not all Americans enjoy the same equal rights and protections under the law.
A few weeks ago, Easton was the site of a peaceful protest in front of the Talbot County Courthouse. The protesters gathered to express their anger and frustration with the racial discrimination that continues to divide this amazing community, and did so in a true spirit of peace.
Since that memorable event, the Talbot Boys Monument — both the mere fact of its existence and its prominent location on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn — has once again become a focus of public outcry.
As many of you already know, I have called for the removal of this awful statue, which was dedicated at the height of our nation’s “Jim Crow” era and romanticizes white supremacy and an act of treason against the United States.
Talbot County is one of my favorite places to visit. Over the years, I have attended many meetings, events and special occasions in your thriving towns from Oxford, Easton, and St. Michaels, to your prosperous farms and waterways from Tilghman, Trappe, and Cordova.
Talbot has so many centers of commerce and economic activity, cultural and educational offerings and medical facilities. It is a magical place of beauty, recreation and open spaces. I also have met so many wonderful people — of all ages, races and creeds — which for me and others makes the Talbot Boys Monument stand in stark contrast to the community I have come to know and enjoy.
There is no place in Talbot County, in Maryland, or our larger society for statues embracing heroes of slavery, violent white supremacy and treason.
People of all colors throughout the country are speaking out.
They are tired of being subject to the remnants of a time when human beings were allowed to be bought, sold and traded as the property of others, and were subject to the worst possible forms of physical abuse, sexual assault and emotional ruin, simply because of the color of their skin.
They are tired of living with harassment, abuse, economic discrimination, violence and murder because of the color of their skin.
They are tired of the endlessness of it all.
Placed on the courthouse lawn in 1916, the Talbot Boys Monument is not an historical edifice and its supposed educational value is that it has served as a propaganda tool to romanticize white supremacy, to legitimize acts of treason and to civilize the brutality of slavery.
If you want to experience a real hero, take a few steps to the other side of the courthouse lawn and admire native son, orator, writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who fled his years of enslavement on a Talbot plantation to freedom and to become a true statesman.
I am in full support of the bipartisan effort by Talbot County Council President Corey Pack and Talbot County Councilmember Pete Lesher in drafting a resolution to bring down the Talbot Boys statue. Both men have shown strength and courage in standing up for what is right for all citizens of Talbot County.
Their beliefs mirror the community’s resolve. I would urge the remaining council members to consider their careful and thoughtful arguments and to listen to the expressions for justice and equality by the protesters.
This is a time of moral clarity for our country. It is a time to do away with symbols that treat men and women differently simply because of the color of their skin. It is time to blot out images that conjure hurt and fear.
I believe Talbot County is up for the challenge of doing what is right.
I have faith that the voices of this community will be heard.
Peter Franchot is comptroller of the state of Maryland. He plans to run for governor in 2022.