The tragic events of this past weekend in Charlottesville and the steady rise of white supremacist sentiment in our country have sent shockwaves across America and the world. We are called to re-affirm our values and we are called to action.
In Howard County, we believe in the value of each and every person who calls this special place home. We value learning from one another, growing together, and being a part of a diverse, inclusive community. We value civility and treating one another with dignity and respect.
However, for 69 years, Howard County has maintained a monument to a cause that did not reflect our values. That cause was the Confederacy. It was a cause determined to dissolve the United States of America, affirm white supremacy, and perpetuate the enslavement of African Americans. In the words of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, “The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of humanity.”
This monument pays tribute, selectively, to only some who fought and suffered during the Civil War. It ignores the Union soldiers who fought and died and all those who suffered the horrors of slavery. It fails completely to tell the story of Howard County’s Civil War history. This monument is also a painful reminder of the backlash in the 1940s and 1950s against the beginnings of Civil Rights Movement, which led to the construction of monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces across our nation. These monuments were built to send a strong message to show, in Mayor Landrieu’s words, “who was still in charge.” And this monument does not sit on just any public land. Rather, it sits on the grounds of our county courthouse, a place that should be and must be a symbol for justice and equal protection of the law for all of our people.
The question for our community is whether continuing to provide such a prominent perch for this monument, which glorifies the Confederacy and ignores our full history, sends the right message about Howard County and our shared values. The answer to that question is no.
I urge the County Executive and County Council to remove this monument from the grounds of the courthouse. I further suggest that the monument be relocated to a more appropriate site, whether it be a private cemetery or a museum, like the Howard County Historical Society Museum beside the courthouse.
Let’s answer the call to re-affirm our values as the diverse, inclusive community we know and love. And let’s act.
(Click here for the first local news story on this issue, reported by Fox45).