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Our View: Black voices are pleading to be heard. Hear them, Carroll County.

Outrage has been reverberating all over the nation ever since May 25, when George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, pushing difficult, painful conversations to the forefront of our American psyche. At times this past week it has seemed like discrimination and violence against black Americans and police accountability are the only topics anyone is discussing.

These discussions are a matter of life and death, and are important to have openly.

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Some white Carroll Countians might not see the relevance of this debate and discord, having not been victims of racism throughout their lives.

Make no mistake, if you have the luxury of deciding when you do and do not want to think about racism, you are not a victim of racism. Those who are on the receiving end of racial bias, hatred and violence do not enjoy the luxury of tuning it out.

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We implore our white readers to engage in learning more about what it’s like to be black in America by listening to these protesters and others who are raising their voices. It takes humanity and humility to recognize moments when listening is more important than speaking. This is that kind of moment.

So, Carroll County, we need to hear from people like Tarin Mclean and Joshlyn Copes, who have organized this week’s daily protests in Westminster.

We were encouraged to hear their perspectives as they rallied locals to raise their voices — and signs — against racism. A series of similar protests have been held this week in Sykesville as well.

There’s much to be proud of with how these protests have been handled. We were heartened to see on a flyer for the protests that local law enforcement had been providing security and had been “extremely supportive.” And Sheriff Jim DeWees told us the protests had been peaceful, adding “the protesters have been very kind.”

Mclean and Copes both spoke highly of the support they’ve enjoyed from the community.

It might be easy to think that the “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter” chants you’ve heard about from the news are a distant phenomenon. But there’s plenty of room for such activism here in Carroll.

Our county has clearly come a long way from previous time periods, but racism is still an unavoidable part of the history of this place.

The heinous act of lynching has occurred here, too. Townsend Cook, a black man, was accused of assaulting a woman in 1885. About 40 masked men rushed the county jail, taking Cook to a farm, where they hanged him. There was no investigation of the killing.

Much more recently, when Mclean and Copes were growing up in Westminster, the Ku Klux Klan was making its presence known in Carroll. “It was a lot,” Copes told us. In the 1980s, “They had the KKK march out here, and they wouldn’t let the Black Panthers march.”

But this problem is not limited to decades past. Go back not even two weeks for evidence.

On May 26, KKK flyers were found distributed to homes in Westminster and elsewhere in the county.

The KKK and its messages do not belong in Carroll County.

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You might not see racism every day in our county, but it does exist. You might not have been called a racial slur or been pelted with an egg while in school. But Mclean was.

Speaking about this week’s protests, Mclean told us, “We’re two black women with black kids, black family members, and we need to be heard, especially in Westminster.”

Do you hear them? We hope you did.

It’s a message that must be heard over and over again, for Carroll County, for Maryland and for the United States.

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