Community Forum to Be Held at BBA to Address Race and Diversity
Does racism exist in this idyllic, quiet corner of the Green Mountain State – or is it someone else’s problem – troubling, but not of local concern? Vermont has been a liberal-leaning state over the course of the majority of recent state and national elections, and Democratic majority states are often not thought of as being touched by racism. Yet there is ample, documented evidence that racism is, in fact, a real issue for many residents in Vermont.
MoveOn Manchester will be hosting a discussion in cooperation with the Rutland Area NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on the minority experience in the Manchester area. There will be a presentation by a panel composed of local activists and community members followed by audience participation.
Although considered a highly liberal-leaning state, there is ample evidence that racism is a real issue in Vermont. According to the ACLU, Vermont incarcerates African American men at a higher rate than any other state in the country. Overt displays of racism directed at black student athletes at area high school sporting events often happen. The forum will offer a chance to learn what it feels like to be a person of color in Vermont from residents and visitors, who will reveal the attitudes, prejudices and obstacles they sometimes face.
“Before I started my work with my MoveOn chapter’s Diversity Alliance,” says group founder Jonathan Fine, “I could only assume that there might be some racism in our area, mainly because statistically, there are pockets of racism and intolerance spread across the entire country. But the specific instances of racism that I’ve heard about happening locally in the short time I’ve been involved with this group are truly alarming.”
“What I’ve come to discover is that no, we don’t have a race problem from a white perspective, because most of us don’t actually have the awareness of what it’s like to be a person of color in our community, and the racist comments and attitudes with which many of our minority neighbors and visitors have, too frequently, been confronted. My goals became to educate the general public that people of color in our community do still, remarkably, face racism in this day and age and to start a conversation about what we as citizens can do about it.”
The forum will also emphasize the more positive aspects of our community and build upon those strengths. Panelists will include Tabitha Pohl-Moore, founder and president of the local area chapter of the NAACP, as well as other citizens of color sharing their observations and suggestions. Community members are invited to join in to learn more and discuss what we as citizens and public institutions can do to make our world more just and welcoming to people of all races.
The Community Forum on Race and Diversity in Southern Vermont will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 19, at the Riley Center at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. For more information, contact Jonathan Fine at firstname.lastname@example.org.