Letter: Objects to Keelan column on racism
I am astounded by the ignorance displayed in Don Keelen's commentary 'Does racism exist in Vermont?' (Feb 17-18). He says he doesn't see that racism exists in Vermont while conceding there might be residents who practice racism. Has he not listened to VPR or read the newspaper lately? There are countless stories of racism in our schools, communities, and work places. The State Psychiatric Hospital has been on notice for discrimination numerous times starting in 2007, when a new hire's vehicle was vandalized with the 'N' word. Just last week it was put on notice after the Vermont Human Rights Commission found that African American employees were subjected to offensive comments and racial epithets by coworkers and patients.
With the internet at your fingertips, go to the VT Human Rights Commission website and you can read about the many, many instances of racism in Vermont. Google "Racism in Vermont" and you will read story after story (by reputable news sources) of incidents of racism in Vermont.
It's not as simple as pointing the finger at one political party or another as Mr. Keenlan would imply. Just because a Republican president over a half century ago helped integrate a school does not mean all Republicans are not racist. (Just look at our current president ). My point is, there are individual racists in both parties and unfortunately, it is alive in Vermont. Recently in the VT State house, a resolution was passed to acknowledge the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and in Vermont Black communities. Representative Kiah Morris (Dem. Bennington) told VT Edition she was stunned by some of the comments made by her colleagues before and after the vote. She said there were those who criticized the Black Lives matter movement as divisive, "instead of the actual oppression and systemic racism itself as being the deciding factor for what's creating this chasm. ...One of the things that's easy for us to do, when we want to cling to a notion of color blindness, is an inability to see that a person's experience can be vastly different from another. '
Sociologist Brene Brown urges us to ask people different from us about their experiences with racism and then listen to their story with the same passion with which you want to be heard. Accept their story without whitewashing it or sanitizing or minimizing it. She asserts it is harder to hate someone up close. Move in, and listen to their story. Until you are curious enough to want to listen and learn and have the difficult conversations around race, racism will thrive. Those who say they don't see it or that it only "might" exist need to open their eyes and ears and stop denying.
M. Kathleen Shaw
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