Racial Equity Report 2022

Isabella Ingegneri, a junior at Arlington Memorial High School, created the cover art for the racial equity report.

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BENNINGTON — The Racial Equity Report 2022, released this week, was created by students to help Vermonters understand the history of racism in the state and influence change to support people of color.

Emily Maikoo, a sophomore at Mount Anthony Union High School, Addie Lentzner, a freshman at Middlebury College, and Minelle Sarfo-Adu, a sophomore at Antioch University and a former Vermont high school student, held a virtual press conference on Aug. 29 to release their report as part of the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network.

Isabella Ingegneri, a junior at Arlington Memorial High School, created the cover art.

“I’m so glad that my art can play a tiny role in the process of change for the better with this report,” she said.

Maikoo opened the conference presenting the report by explaining why it was created.

“We felt as though we weren’t learning enough about race in school,” she said. “So we took it upon ourselves to write a report to alert and educate other young people.”

SURVEY

More than 200 Mount Anthony Union High School students were surveyed to learn more about the opinions of students surrounding the topic of race.

One of the questions asked: “Do you think you got a substantial education on race and racism in elementary school?” Out of 233 responses, 78.5 percent of students surveyed responded “no.”

The survey then asked 235 students: “On a scale of 1-5 how would you rate the level of racial diversity at your Elementary School,” with one being the lowest rating. More than half of the students gave a rating of one. Only nine students rated the diversity at the school a five.

SLAVERY

The report began by giving a detailed overview of slavery and racism in Vermont. It states that Vermont became the first colony to outright ban slavery on July 2, 1777 — although this ban did not stop some Vermonters from enslaving people and kidnapping freed slaves.

The ban was full of loopholes, the students said. Slavery was illegal for men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 18. The state’s Constitution still allowed children to be enslaved. Into the 1800s, wealthy landowners were still enslaving people.

Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Windham 4, spoke at the press conference and addressed the loopholes in the legislation regarding slavery:

“Finally, this year … Proposition 2 is going to be on the ballot in the fall, the voters will have a chance to make the final determination to remove the language that allowed certain forms of slavery, technically, to still be permitted within Vermont.” Even in 2022, the loopholes that allow children to be enslaved are still in the state’s Constitution.

More than a century after the ban, in the 1950s, Black Vermonters were still being denied housing because of their race. There were instances of cross burnings at the homes of Black residents into the 1980s. The following decade brought racist vandalism to playgrounds and teenagers involved in hate crimes.

As recently as 2005, a 17-year-old student of color was suspended from high school for “defending herself in a fight where racial epithets were thrown at her,” said the report.

“Vermont is often viewed as a progressive harbor from the racism of the US, but that is not the truth,” the report states. Incidents still occur in schools and even in the government.

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HOUSING

The report also takes a look at housing discrimination in Vermont. Sarfo-Adu spoke on the importance of buying a home and how housing can be a great personal asset.

“That all sounds amazing until we understand that not everyone has this opportunity,” she said. “When I found out that people have been discriminated against in their own home by their community or by their landlords, I was disgusted.”

“Redlining is a system of dividing housing locations based on race,” the report said. In a Rental Discrimination Report, it was found that 56 percent of people of color who were attempting to rent a home faced housing discrimination.

“Even though we have protections against these acts, they still occur undercover or they’re just not being handled properly,” said Sarfo-Adu.

HEALTHCARE

The students also reported on the impact of race on healthcare in the state.

“Health care discrimination links back to the false myths spread centuries ago,” the report states. One myth is that Black people have a higher pain tolerance than white people. “Many researchers note that not only are these myths false, but also used by 19th century doctors to justify the mistreatment of enslaved people.”

There are also disparities between people of color and white people regarding the rate of illness related to COVID, other diseases and mental health related issues.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

When it comes to the criminal justice system, Black Vermonters are disproportionately incarcerated, the report said. Bos-Lun said, “I do believe that cash bail is a human rights issue.”

The minimum bail in Vermont is $200.

“And I know an individual who was a person of color, who was having a mental health crisis, who was charged with a very minor crime and spent four months incarcerated before he finally got to trial, because he couldn’t get his $200,” she said.

“Black Vermonters are 6x more likely to go to jail than White Vermonters, 14x more likely to be charged with felony drug crimes, and 3.5x more likely to be stopped by police,” according to the report.

Maikoo said she’s “tired of being angry … Angry that I watch my classmates treat racism as a faraway experience while I constantly have to live that experience.”

The students ended the report with, “We hope you take this information and use it in your day to day life to realize the extent of racism in our communities. And we hope you are able to use this knowledge as power to effect change here in Vermont.”

Read the full report at: vsarn.org/racial-equity-report.


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