Thursday, December 3, 2015

Black Lives Matter Everywhere; Vermont Needs That Reminder, Too

Part of a demonstration against racism in St Albans,
Vermont on Wednesday. Photo by Morgan True/Vermont Digger. 
I've lived in Vermont my entire life (so far!) and I must admit a dirty, big secret about my state

There's a lot of racists here.

There's a lot of racists everywhere, but some people from outside Vermont think the Green Mountain State is a liberal utopia of understanding, brotherhood and sisterhood and kumbaya.

True, most of us here in Vermont are not racists, are nice people, who try to do the right thing, who worry about racial injustice. A number of Vermonters work tirelessly to combat racism.

Then you get displays like we had yesterday in the community where I live, St. Albans, Vermont. Which proves there are a fair number of bigots here, too.

A relatively small number of African-Americans go the local high school, called Bellows Free Academy.

Those African-Americans said racial tension is a problem at the school, so they held a rally in downtown St. Albans calling attention to this issue.

According to Vermont Digger, the demonstration did not go well at all, but the events of the day did prove the students' point: Racism is alive and well in Vermont, as it is pretty much everywhere in the nation.

Here's what happened during the demonstration, writes Morgan True of Vermont Digger: 

"A young man drove past the rally with a Confederate flag mounted to the bed of his pickup truck; others drove past givin demonstrators the middle finger. A group of white students who gathered around another pickup truck pantomimed shooting guns at demonstrators."

Obviously, the yahoos who did this kind of thing are not representative of the majority of Vermonters. But it proves quite a bit of work still needs to be done in terms of race relations.

One of the demonstration's organizers, Ebony Nyone, says her nephew is racially harassed at school, and people often use racial slurs.  
A pickup truck with a Confederate flag drives
past an anti-racism demonstration in St. Albans,
Vermont Wednesday. Photo by Morgan True
of Vermont Digger.  

There is one student in particular, she says, that keeps bringing a Confederate flag to school in an effort to harass black students.

Part of the problem, Nyone told Vermont Digger, is school officials don't often understand how racism manifests itself. When an African-American student finally retaliates or reacts, it's them that get punished or suspended, and the racist taunter goes free.

Vermont Digger also interviewed a guy named Richard Miller, who owns Miller's Automotive near Bellows Free Academy. in St. Albans.

He turned out to be not an example of hate-inspired racism, but perhaps maybe a type borne of ignorance. 

Vermont has one of the smallest proportions of African-Americans of any in the nation.  I wonder if some people here, especially in rural areas, meet few African-Americans, cling to stereotypes and what they think is the proper "role" for blacks.

If Vermont Digger's reporting is correct, Miller might be that type. He appears not to like uppity blacks, as the vernacular in these situations goes.

"'I'm not a racist person, but the black man has brought a lot of his misery on himself,' Miller said. 'They got this big chip on their shoulder and they're just daring someone to knock it off,' he said looking on in disgust at the protest from his garage window.

'I've got black friends,' Miller said. 'You know what he would call them people? Niggers.' he railed, gesturing at the demonstrators across the street. 'He's a good guy, and he says I've ot all kinds of whiae friends and I've never been called a nigger. You know why? Because I don't act like a nigger.'"

I guess demonstrating against racism makes you unacceptable, in Miller's opinion.

Miller also told Vermont Digger that white people are now the 'lowest on the totem pole'

Hmm. Interesting theory.

Yep, we have some work to do in terms of race relations, don't we?

Oh, and by the way, remind me not to get my truck fixed at Miller Automotive. If he has that attitude toward blacks, imagine what he thinks about a gay guy like me.

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