Op/Ed

Legislative Review: Vermont must confront racism

For too long, white Vermonters have thought of ourselves as untouched by racism: It’s taken several high-profile and despicable actions for us to really understand how vicious racism is right here in Vermont. The age of denying that we have an issue is over. We must listen humbly to those who have been telling us for many decades that there is one Vermont for white people, and another for everyone else.

It’s time to take steps to ensure that all Vermonters can access the benefits our state has to offer regardless of race.
First, we must each have the courage to understand how deeply systemic racism is embedded in our habits and thinking. For centuries, the people most devastated by the impacts of white supremacy and systemic racism have been sharing their stories, their pain, their struggle. They have given us the information we need on a silver platter — and we have not listened.

My skin color in our culture has made it possible for me to not be aware that racism exists because I am not a victim of it. Our silence and denial make us willing participants in a system that continues to oppress millions of people, and yes — including, perhaps especially, in a state like Vermont. Until we each are willing to do anti-racism work, nothing will change. The Legislature itself must do this deep and continuous reckoning. It is difficult, and it is painful.

The establishment of a Racial Equity Advisory Panel in 2018 was a good step forward, overcoming some resistance from the Scott administration — but we must do more. Currently, House Leadership and the Social Equity Caucus are providing very focused spaces and trainings for representatives and are doing work to make sure that Vermonters of color can hold their legislators accountable.
I commit to doing the work to confront my own complicity with racist behaviors and systems in Vermont. I will continue to ask to be held accountable and will continue to ensure the centering of Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives, and the lives of People of Color.

 

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