Every now and then you must step out of your comfort zone and do something radical to show leadership in a community where people have forgotten those who sacrificed to open the doors for their current prosperity.
To be honest, I never gave two hoots about the significance of Confederate flags, Confederate statues and white robes.
I was like my late grandfather, who lived comfortably on a 64-acre farm in South Carolina with a shotgun and an attitude that he didn’t care what the Ku Klux Klan did if they didn’t do it on his property.
I adopted the same philosophy. If the “self-described alt-right” didn’t bother me, any flag or Confederate symbol had no bearing on my success or failure.
And then Charlottesville happened. The thought became more serious as I begin to listen to many White supremacists talk of Blacks.
I, like many others, applauded the decision by Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to take down the statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice responsible for the Dred Scott decision, which stood, for many years, in front of the statehouse in Annapolis.
Then the gut shot came from Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller when he defended the presence of the Taney statue and asked that it be preserved for historical purposes. The call seems so astonishing because Miller has mentored and helped win elections for dozens of Black candidates, won his elections along with other White Democrats with Black votes, and his family businesses, which include a liquor store and law firm, have prospered with the support from Black customers.
That’s why we took the street. For me and many of my activist colleagues, it was like asking a Jewish person to preserve a statue of Adolph Hitler. For me Miller’s action was a “slap in the face” from the leader of the Democratic Party which depends largely on loyal Black votes for statewide victories. It was the final straw in a series of bad political decisions – including the arm-twisting in the Black community that has kept the state from electing a Black U.S. senator, the lack of contracts at the MGM decision and complete whitewash when it comes to Black licenses for the new medical marijuana industry.
After protests in Prince George’s County, Miller issued a statement expressing “regret” for his defense of the Taney statue that read in part, “As a student of history, I intended to respectfully state my preference for education about our flawed history and the greater historical context of Justice Taney. I do regret that sharing my historical perspective has distracted from the larger issue we must face together as a nation and from my role to bring unity and fight for a better Maryland.”
While appreciative of Miller’s comment that he regretted making his statement, Maryland Business and Clergy Partnership is continuing to support the efforts by State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D), who is running for county executive, to censure the longest serving state senate president in the nation.
At what point do Black voters and Black residents receive the respect they deserve? At what point do we make it incumbent upon our leaders to respond to the egregious acts of those in power that denigrate and diminish the self-worth of the community? At what point in Prince George’s County, supposedly the richest and most educated Black suburb in the nation, do people stand up and preserve the rights that have been won through blood, sweat, tears, and even torture?
Bruce Branch is an award-winning journalist, orator, author, community activist, businessman, and spiritual leader. He currently serves as executive director of the Maryland Business and Clergy Partnership.