Md. House GOP leaders accuse Hagerstown progressive activist of racism

Renee Burgan and Brenda Thiam

Maryland House Republican leaders are accusing a prominent Hagerstown progressive activist of racism over online comments directed at the first Black female Republican to serve in the Maryland General Assembly.

In a letter released Thursday, Republican state House leaders denounced Hagerstown progressive activist Renee Burgan for using a black chess pawn emoji and the phrase “Yes Massa” to condemn state Del. Brenda J. Thiam, Ph.D. (R-Hagerstown) for voting against legislation that Burgan supports.

Burgan commented on a Facebook post that Thiam published, writing, “It’s a shame that she is supporting the suppression of votes for those who are marginalized in race [sic] and for voting against students who may be demonstrating, much like her own child who she has stated advocates for BLM [Black Lives Matter].”

“I guess though if you [sic] a WashCo [pawn] you doin [sic] what they want you to do. In other words, Yess Massa,” Burgan said.

Read the letter released by Maryland’s House Republican Caucus. 

Thiam responds 

“Renee [sic] using the words “yes massa” implies you’re calling me a house n*****,” Thiam wrote in response to Burgan’s criticisms.

Thiam said Burgan’s comments shocked her.

But Thiam’s shock “quickly changed to a mix of anger and disappointment,” she said.

“My skin color does not dictate my political affiliation, my ability to think for myself, or my worth as a human being,” Thiam wrote.

She hopes Burgan is “more careful” in the future when choosing her words and “refrains from trying to define what it means to be African-American” since Burgan, to Thiam’s knowledge, isn’t Black.

Last September, Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Thiam to fill a vacancy in Hagerstown District 2B after appointing her predecessor, Paul Corderman, to the District 2 state Senate seat soon after former Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington County) resigned last July.

Read Burgan’s Facebook comment to Thiam.

Kipke hopes Burgan will apologize 

House Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said Thiam “would have welcomed a thoughtful dialogue with Burgan” had Burgan not resorted to racist attacks.

“I would hope, at the least, Ms. Burgan would apologize for her patently racist comments,” Kipke said.

Burgan has not responded to a request for comment.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Tiara Burnett weighs in 

GOP House leaders were quick to point out that Burgan was Hagerstown City Councilwoman Tiara Burnett‘s 2020 campaign manager.

This was Burnett’s first run for elected office. In Hagerstown’s 2020 city council general election, she earned the most votes, whereas Thiam placed last among a crop of 10 candidates.

Hagerstown has five city council seats; elections are nonpartisan and are held every four years.

Burnett directed A Miner Detail to her Facebook page when reached for comment.

“Today I became aware that a former member of my campaign team, Renee Burgan, made insensitive remarks toward City of Hagerstown State Delegate Brenda Thiam on Facebook,” Burnett said, written on official City of Hagerstown letterhead.

“I condemn the racial undertone and dialect that was directed at Delegate Thiam,” Burnett said.

She said she didn’t know of Burgan’s posts, and she wasn’t involved in the comments that followed.

Burnett clarified that she would not be “affiliated nor held accountable for social media posts made by others from their personal accounts.”

Authentic outrage or partisan politics?

Burnett chastised the Republican state House Caucus for referencing her name in their letter blasting Burgan.

“It is also disappointing to see my name referenced in a statement from the Maryland Republican Caucus dated April 1, 2021,” Burnett wrote.

She said she believes the Republicans’ letter “is a retaliatory attempt to slander” her name in response to a rumor that she’s considering running against Delegate Thiam in the 2024 elections.

Burnett is a registered Democrat.

The City of Hagerstown is one of only a few Democratic enclaves in deeply conservative Western Maryland.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Washington County, where former President Donald J. Trump bested President Joeseph R. Biden Jr. by 20 points in the November presidential election.

Washington County’s Republican central committee is well-known to target Hagerstown Mayor Emily Keller and other county and municipal Democrats.

The local GOP apparatus is led by Jeremiah DeWolf, a Navy veteran, and contractor. DeWolf is a field service representative for Getinge USA, Inc. He works at Fort Detrick.

Ryan Miner is the Editor of A Miner Detail, a leading Maryland politics blog, and multimedia news hub. He is the host of A Miner Detail Podcast.

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Ryan Miner Administrator
Ryan Miner is the Editor in Chief, Founder, Senior Political Reporter and Publisher of A Miner Detail. He is the host of A Miner Detail Podcast.
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