News Release — Rutland Area NAACP
August 7, 2018
Phone: (802) 342-4755
A new friend recently shared sage advice from his father. The saying goes, “there’s a difference between standing up for yourself and sticking your neck out. You need to know the difference and when it is time to do one or the other.”
In Vermont, doing racial justice work as a person of color sometimes feels like you are doing both. Hateful rhetoric on a national level has emboldened a contingent of people that many thought was no longer a core part of the United States Identity.The rise and visibility of white nationalist groups around the country has shaken the core of many Vermonters and stirred many local human rights groups to resistance.
Moreover, white nationalist groups in our home state are also feeling energized with several of these groups targeting people and places associated with the fight for racial equity and justice. Vermont Public Radio shed light on this issue when they covered the smattering of white nationalist propaganda posted around Brattleboro. While these acts may seem minor to some, they represent a growing boldness that means to wilt the efforts of people of color and their allies as weeds do a flower. The Vermont branches of the NAACP condemn these acts and stands alongside the other Southern Vermont based racial justice groups, the communities’ churches, the organizers of the Vermont Women’s March, and all of the townspeople in the Windham area in opposition to these hateful actions.
As a non-partisan organization, we do not endorse any candidate or political party. We do, however, notice incidents of hate and bias, especially against those who seek to serve their communities and promote racial equity. This national rhetoric of hate is infiltrating Vermont and has resulted in direct threats toward Bennington State Representative Kiah Morris, one of our state’s most visible people of color.
It may be easy to think of this as everyday political dissent until one examines the reality that not one other legislator is facing the same level of vitriol or personal attack. No other Vermont State law maker’s family is the target of hate filled verbiage, such as “go back where you came from” or racist remarks referring to her child as an “ugly mongrel”- a well-known epithet used to disparage children of mixed race. Let us not forget that more than a few non-native Vermonters serve in our legislature and vote similarly to Ms. Morris, yet none are being attacked or threatened racially, nor are they told to return to where they came from.
Today’s racism does not look like it did in the 1960’s. Gone are the days of torches, hoods, and crosses on lawns. Now, coded language and veiled threats are the primary means of conveying racist ideology. That type of hate-filled language and innuendo is more than disrespectful; it is dehumanizing. It must be ejected from our vocabulary because it erodes our ability to empathize with one another. If you hear racialized hate speech, strike it down and If you see a person of color being disrespected, judged, or being made to feel that they “do not belong” step in and say something. Remember, to be silent in the face of injustice is to be compliant. The NAACP will not be compliant.
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The Vermont branches of the NAACP support Ms. Morris in her fight for racial justice and, most importantly, her right to exist as a Vermonter of color. In closing, let us never forget that everyone on this land is a non-native except the Abenaki people. To arbitrarily choose points in history that are convenient for the majority of the population as indicators of who is considered “native” is naive, dangerous, and works against our core values as a collective society. We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.
Tabitha Pohl-Moore Steffen Gillom
Vermont Director of the NAACP President, Windham Area Branch of the NAACP