Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deborah Bucknam, a St. Johnsbury-based attorney.
In 1857, Justice Taney, in the notorious Dred Scott case, opined that Black Americans were “considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race.” In 2021, State of Vermont employees, in mandated trainings as part of state wide indoctrination, were told the following: “White supremacist ideology really infiltrates in every nook and cranny of our society. …The ideology of white supremacy … is the belief system that rationalizes, reproduces, and normalizes white racial advantage. … There’s a definite sense of subjugation … whether or not it’s in the fabric of a workplace, [or] a government institution.”
This message was intended to shame and denigrate white Vermonters. It did the opposite. It was based on the same belief as Justice Taney’s: that Black Americans are incapable of taking on the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and of living successful lives, because of subjugation by the all-powerful white “race.” It is a monstrous, barbaric belief based on the endemic racism of the progressive left.
This message permeated the entire trainings. In the 15 hours of training, the only Black Americans the trainer exemplified were Black Americans who were “murdered” in encounters with police. No mention was made of Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Thurgood Marshall, President Barack Obama, Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Black intellectuals like Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Glenn Loury, Dr. John McWhorter, or HUD Secretary and pediatric brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, or any of the tens of millions of Black Americans whose intelligence, talent, courage, compassion and perseverance have enriched our nation. The trainer also made clear that Black Americans must never think independently. According to the trainer, Black Americans who dissent from the progressive orthodoxy that they are powerless victims of white supremacy are guilty of “internalized racism.” The trainer also made clear that, according to her, Black Americans are exceedingly fragile. White Americans must, according to the trainer, refrain from remarks she termed “micro-aggressions,” which, according to her, include compliments. Whites need to monitor their speech when speaking with Black Americans, like adults do with small children.
The trainer also did not mention Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, she said that King’s dream that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character was “racist.” She said that “colorblindness perpetuates and keeps cycling racism into our lives.”
Worse, the trainings emphasized that for Black Americans, hard work and perseverance are futile; that “pulling up by the bootstraps” and stable marriages are white supremacist, and that advice to maintain a healthy weight is a form of “eugenics” imposed by the medical profession. If there is a sure way to keep Black Americans “in their place,” these conclusions fit the bill.
Justice Taney and other white supremacists would approve these messages.
These 2021 trainings are not the only indoctrination imposed on Vermont State employees. Similar trainings and messaging constantly permeate throughout state government. Our children are also hearing comparable racist messages in our public schools.
Just as disturbing as the racism delivered during the trainings is the violation of Vermont state employees’ First Amendment rights. Dr. David Moshman, an expert in the nature and development of human reasoning and rationality, after reviewing the transcript of the trainings, concluded that they constituted classic indoctrination. He said: “The training is curricular indoctrination in that much of it is highly ideological and cannot be justified academically. The training is also instructional indoctrination in that the manner of presentation suppresses critical discussion and dissent.”
State employees have been informed that they must accept this racist doctrine or risk adverse employment actions. Such requirements violate employees’ First Amendment rights. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”
It is time for Vermonters to stop this racist indoctrination. It will take courage and perseverance, including voting, running for office, and petitioning our elected representatives. But we can gain inspiration from our Black American compatriots, who have endured far worse, making “good trouble” to achieve their rightful place in American society.