Nader Hashim: Ethnic studies bill a step in the right direction

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Rep. Dylan Giambatista (D-Essex Junction) was preparing to deliver his speech regarding the ethnic studies bill. I saw he had his speech written out in front of him, and he leaned over to me and whispered, "This is actually the first time I've ever reported a bill on the floor." He sounded a bit nervous, as anyone reasonably would, before presenting a bill in front of 150 members of the general assembly as well as members of the public and press.

The bill which Rep. Giambatista was about to present was H.3, the ethnic studies bill. This was a priority for the education committee at the start of our biennium, and was brought promptly to the floor of the assembly after listening to many hours of testimony.

Rep. Giambatista delivered an articulate and powerful speech about the ethnic studies bill and why schools must begin updating their curriculum to provide a broader history that includes studying marginalized and minority groups in our society. This is a bill that would also work to address the issues of bias and harassment in our schools. While some folks may argue that this bill is not needed because there is so little diversity in Vermont, I would certainly argue to the contrary. Particularly in Windham County, we are seeing a growing increase in racial diversity, especially in our schools. The demographics of Vermont are changing, and the next generation of Vermonters can lead our state in a great direction when inclusiveness and tolerance is in their hearts and minds.

This bill is a step in the right direction.

I felt a profound swell of pride as a roll call vote was commenced and there was a unanimous tri-partisan voice that voted "Yes" on this crucial piece of legislation. It showed me that the leaders and lawmakers in Vermont, regardless of party affiliation, recognize the necessity of ethnic studies in our schools. While the times are always changing, the ideas of cooperation and mutual respect make up a big part of the foundation of our values here in Vermont. This is also true in the statehouse. As a freshman legislator, there was a part of me that was curious about the dynamics of teamwork and "reaching across the aisle." This first month in Montpelier has shown me that all legislators want the same thing; we want to see a better Vermont where everyone can be productive and happy. We want to see growth, peace, prosperity, strong communities, and safety. We just have different ideas and suggestions on how to reach those goals.

The beginning of this biennium has been a whirlwind of knowledge and experiences from all sectors of government. I could not be more proud, humbled, and delighted to serve as a legislator in our remarkable statehouse.

Rep. Nader Hashim (D-Dummerston) is a first-term legislator, and is serving on the house judiciary committee. He works for the Vermont State Police, is as a vice-president of the Windham NAACP, and serves on the Fair & Impartial Policing Committee for the VSP.

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