This commentary is by Marianne Ward, a Burlington resident and the mother of three sons.
Please do not ignore Deborah Bucknam’s warnings in her commentary March 15, “Stop racist trainings in Vermont.”
I wasn't aware the “trainings” which she warns about are taking place statewide. I live in Burlington. According to one city employee I spoke with, here, the trainings are segregated by skin color. I wasn't going to believe it until I verified it for myself. Sure enough — Covid dollars are being wasted on mandated, segregated trainings, which are literally described by the Burlington Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging as safe spaces.
When I asked the acting REIB director (the director left March 10) if I could have access to the materials, I was told no — they are not for public viewing. They are legitimate internal city business! What are they hiding?
Ms. Bucknam says that in the trainings Martin Luther King is not mentioned — that trainees are told that his "dream that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character" is racist. The statement by the ex-REIB director, Tyeastia Green, reveals the new Black narrative that explains the new racist label.
On Rosa Parks and MLK she says this: "They (white people) have taken people who they find acceptable and they have catapulted them. They say this is the standard of what you should aspire to be — be that docile Black man so that you can be acceptable to us. No Malcolm X, Angela Davis or Stokely Carmichael. That is wrong."
That quote is from a CCTV interview she did Dec. 15, 2020, with three Black refugee high school interns. There is more. To read the following from a true-or-false historical fact perspective would be missing the point.
Consider her audience — vulnerable Black refugee high school boys trying to fit in and struggling mightily with English and homework.
On reparations, she said this: "The indigenous population received reparations for white people stealing their land. The Japanese got money for white people putting them in internment camps. The Chinese got money for white people being racially offensive to them. The only group of people who have not gotten any kind of relief from the damage done by white people is us." “Us,” she said. Skin color does not an “us” make.
And this: "One thing for you young Black men (ages 15-17) who have come here more recently is that the entire history of American blackness is laid at your feet."
When they expressed gratitude for the opportunities they are getting here, she said, "Yes, but, what are you giving up for it?" We came from hell, they said.
She told them that white boys would beat the crap out of them. And that everywhere in this country they would be called the N-word.
If I were to instruct vulnerable Black African refugees on how to recognize when they are being politically manipulated, that unethical 30-minute, palsy, I-am-your-savior video is what I would use.
I am the mother of three sons. I thought about the parents of the Black refugee high school interns and what a betrayal it was for her to indoctrinate them in hate and tribalism — the same forces that expelled them from their homeland.
She brought to the position an arrogant militancy. "I'm not focused on changing minds. So, it's like you (white people) can be racist, you can hold on to your racism, I don't care, but this is how we are going to do it and these are the rules we are going to abide by. You (mayor) are not going to perform racist acts in any way and get away with it...." Not unlike what Bucknam warns us about, her words can only be described as white-hate tribal indoctrination.
In the 1980s, I too was indoctrinated in racist propaganda. I sort of bought into it, but never stopped questioning if I was truly racist. Today, with all the divisive Black propaganda and the blaming and shaming whites are accused of, I completely reject it.
In a different interview (David Goodman on VTDigger, March 31, 2021), Green said she sees racism everywhere in Vermont. When one weaponizes for war, one creates an enemy.
About Burlington, she says there is something nefarious. Good thing she wasn't in tourism!
Remember, this is the same woman responsible for bringing the “training” to Burlington. And the one the mayor took to the airways every chance he got to credit her with “educating” him. Upset city officials say theirs was a tail-wagging-the-dog relationship. And that because of it, they all walked on eggshells. He betrayed this community. As will her white-hating legacy.
What really scares me about all of this is that, as a city leader bestowed with the power of the mayor behind her, she may have been consulted on what and how to teach racial history in our schools.
Twenty-plus years ago, I volunteered with the state minority health department in Burlington. There I learned from BIPOC communities about racial inequities in health care and their cries for help. So when state and local officials claimed that they were caught unaware by Covid's impact on Black and brown communities, I couldn't be convinced.
Many years later and before the killing of George Floyd, councilors made statements about the serious level of racial tension in the city. Over the decades, mayors and councilors came and went — not all; some still “serve.” Nothing changed except the escalating tensions.
But hey, look how racially righteous we are! Our Main Street declares Black Lives Matter! The Everyone Loves a Parade mural was removed because it didn’t have enough Black faces on it. And, with its seven replacements around the city, you will not find a white face. Good on us! Power has no shame.
It was state and local governments that brought upon us the tragic racial tensions in our communities. Their forced indoctrination by weaponized Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging departments is a horrifically bad idea.
It all seems like a massive CYA scheme.
So now, as I see it, it's easier for officials to dump their failings on the people, like we — with all our power — created the problem. Why else would city employees, by authoritarian rule, be forced into segregated “trainings”?
Black activists are no better. They are belligerent, demanding, unreasonable, exploitative and intentionally divisive at times.
Fueling divisiveness will not mend our broken communities. But then, healing is not everyone's goal.