Letter to the editor: MUHS should fly the BLM flag

I am one of many community members who have written to the Addison Central School District board in support of allowing Middlebury Union High School students to fly the Black Lives Matter flag on the school flagpole.

The great United States historian Howard Zinn said, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” What he meant by that, is that the train (a metaphor for our politics and our society) is moving in certain deadly directions, and if you are neutral, you are accepting that. I do not accept that! I do not want my community to accept the fact that Black people in Vermont are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. I do not want us to accept the fact that Black Vermonters are less likely to own homes and more likely to be pulled over while driving. I do not want us to accept that pregnant Black people in the United States are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth. None of this is acceptable, and that is why, as a community, we should be declaring that Black Lives Matter.

And to my dear neighbors who have placed signs in their yards saying, “Racism Has No Home Here,” these signs are a kind of denial and gaslighting of our Black and Brown neighbors who have experienced plenty of racism in our polite and progressive community. It’s interesting that I haven’t heard anyone report that their “Racism Has No Home Here” sign was stolen, but my “Black Lives Matter” sign was stolen multiple times from in front of my house when we lived in East Middlebury. What is it about this simple statement, “Black Lives Matter” that makes so many white people anxious and upset? What makes us want to stay neutral in the face of injustice?

I watched the videos of the Black Lives Matter flag being raised at the high schools in Bristol, in Montpelier, in South Burlington and in Rutland, and I felt proud of these teenagers who did the hard work to educate their fellow students, their teachers and administrators, and their community about why this flag is necessary and appropriate. Now several students at MUHS are asking us, the wider community, to support their efforts to raise this flag at their school. Like the Black Lives Matter signs in people’s front yards, it’s only a symbol, but symbols matter. I see the flag as a statement of love and care toward a segment of our population that has been systematically discriminated against in the past and in the present. Flying the flag says, “We care about you. You deserve to be safe. We will work for a better future.”

Joanna Colwell


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