Ask anyone not from Vermont about what it’s like here and you’ll probably hear “where is that?”
But if they know, then they immediately think Burlington and Bernie Sanders. Hiking, organic food, locally-made wool mittens.
Vermonters themselves often think Vermont is a liberal, accepting place for everyone, failing to question why our population is still over 90% white. And with such a white population, is everyone as liberal as they claim to be? And what about the other side?
Vermont’s brand of liberalism seems to be turning a blind eye to the fact that Vermont isn’t diverse, with people acting as if Vermont is separate from the issue of racism, and therefore innocent.
But treating Vermont as a pinnacle of liberalism doesn’t help anyone. In order to confront our problems with diversity and inclusion, we first have to admit that those issues exist here.
Take Rutland High School’s mascot for example. What purpose does having an insensitive, offensive mascot serve beyond tradition? And why should tradition matter more than the feelings of Indigenous people who have faced violence and ignorance, being swept under the rug and pushed out of their land so we can live here?
We can’t ignore the fact that there are plenty of people on the other sides of these issues. People want to keep the Raiders mascot at Rutland despite pushback. Confederate flags fly next to houses, and regardless of the intention, people of color see that and see one message – you’re not welcome here.
Trump campaign signs were scattered throughout Castleton, Fair Haven, and many towns throughout the state. But while Donald Trump’s popularity in certain areas of Vermont is telling, this is not only about him. These issues have been plaguing Vermont and this entire country for far longer than Donald Trump has been spreading hate.
This summer, the issue of police brutality against Black people swept through the nation, sparking protests in all 50 states. Vermont took part. So many people wondered how this could happen, despite the fact that it has been happening since this country was founded.
And it’s happening here too. We have our eyes on Minneapolis, Louisville and Kenosha, where horrific murders of Black people have taken place, but we should know that police brutality can and has happened here.
We should know that Black drivers in Vermont are more likely to be stopped than white drivers, but less likely to be found with contraband.
If Vermont is going to claim the title of being a liberal state, we have to move beyond surface-level white liberalism. Every Vermonter should feel safe here, but we can’t simply will that to happen – we have to put in the work.