Our opinion: Time to stand up against hate
State Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, the only African-American woman in the Vermont Legislature, has decided not to run for re-election to the state House.
Rep. Morris has recently been subjected to harassment and threats. She didn't cite that specifically in announcing her decision to step down, but it seemed clear that they played a role: "It is my hope that as a state, we will continue to demand greater support and protections for one another from those forces which seek to divide and destroy our communities."
Vermonters should be pleased to see that state Attorney General T.J. Donovan has launched an investigation of these threats. If even one hateful slur or implied threat of contributed to Rep. Morris' decision to step down, that's too many.
Somewhere in this country, if not in our own community, someone will say, "I thought Vermont was a tolerant place. How could this happen?"
To those people, and to fellow Vermonters, we say this: Vermont is indeed a live and let live sort of place, but we're not perfect. We're also one of the whitest states in the union. That doesn't make Vermont intolerant, but that lack of diversity does make some of us blind and deaf to the realities of what it means to be an African-American in a country where racism still poisons the very air we breathe.
Maybe some of us are afraid to confront bigotry when we see it because we don't want to be threatened ourselves. Some of us would rather sit back and let someone else handle it, hoping that people who believe in these falsehoods will go away on their own if we leave them alone and deny them an audience, or the satisfaction of upsetting us.
Or maybe it's so uncomfortable that we'd rather look the other way.
What we forget is there's a lot more people who choose love and inclusion than there are bigots and haters — and strength in numbers. We must help or speak up for a neighbor today, for we may need our neighbor tomorrow.
On Aug. 12, Rep. Morris said this (to her "fellow electeds") on Twitter: "Don't wait until our funerals to speak our names, have the courage to take action in support of our lives and protect us as you are charged to do. Do not give greater importance to free speech over human lives and dignity. The violence is here. Where are you?"
Some, to their credit, have stood up, and Morris thanked them in the same Twitter thread: "I want to thank the many activist groups and everyday folks who have come out consistently to show support for me and my family and so many others in their communities. You give me air in a suffocating political climate and national malaise. Keep fighting."
It's time to stand and be counted.
Any act of hatred perpetrated against any one of us is an attack upon all of us. We must all stand together to challenge hatred and bias. It's what our humanity demands of us.
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