Keelan: Does racism exist in Vermont?

By Don Keelan

Vermont has joined the rest of the nation in celebrating Black History Month. It comes at a time when much had been mentioned that racism exists in Vermont. I really don’t see this and, at the same time, with a state population of over 625,000, I am not blind to the fact that there very well might be residents who practice racism.

One reason it is difficult for me, and I am sure for others of my generation (World War II), is that we had witnessed segregation, discrimination, riots, the civil rights movement and all the positive achievements that followed. Personally, I had seen segregation in the military, workplace, and in public places — at times subtle, other times blatant.

I have previously mentioned in my columns how difficult it was for me to understand, while traveling to Camp David to protect President Eisenhower at his retreat, the sight of our four black Marines not being able to get off the Marine Corps bus at a diner in Frederick, MD. “Whites Only” read the sign.

Nor was it any better for the black Marines when our platoon was chosen to go to southern cities to perform the Silent Drill — the South did not permit a “mixed group” to perform in public.

That was in the late 1950s, and it was not much improved in the mid ’60s. Then, I was working for one of the Big Eight public accounting firms, Arthur Andersen, in New York City. I was assigned to an audit client in Newport News, Virginia — the ship-building company of some 25,000 employees at the one location. Segregation was in full view: The “Negroes” had their own lunch places, bathrooms, drinking fountains and job assignments. The latter were menial ones — never a black welder, machinist, or engineer.

The late 1960s brought much of this to an end with the killing of Rev. Dr. King and the riots across every major American city. What I had witnessed was the end of segregation and discrimination of black Americans from participation in the workplace, housing, education, sports and public transportation.

There has been a great deal of progress made since the 1960s in eliminating discrimination among people of color, physical challenges and sexual orientation. It is not complete, and indeed, a work in progress. However, the accusation that racism is alive and well in Vermont is an inflammatory statement and only leads to create divisiveness among those of us who harbor no such thoughts.

And the accusations and perceptions come in subtle ways. I was recently told by an attorney friend of mine — a politically polar opposite — that he was surprised that my wife and I had entertained 36 middle-schoolers from Harlem, South Bronx and Brooklyn at our home in Arlington. What had taken him back was that last summer was our 20th year having the campers stay overnight on our property, nearly 800 children over two decades.

When I asked why he felt as he did, his response was that I was a member of the Republican Party and that the party is racist. I told him he was paying too much attention to Gov. Howard Dean and he should look into what President Eisenhower had done in 1953 regarding his selecting Earl Warren as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Brown v. The Board of Education). Also, it had taken great courage on the part of the president in September 1957 to send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to allow a black girl to go to what was a segregated school. Republicans are not racists.

The racism that might exist in Vermont should be identified and eliminated through education and good will, not through the harboring of preconceived notions.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Ardfern
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6 thoughts on “Keelan: Does racism exist in Vermont?

  1. You know I believe the term racism is an overused word that doesn’t describe what is happening in America today. The key tenant of racism is the concept of superiority of one race over another. I think that feeling or belief is harbored only by a minuscule part of our society.

    I believe the correct word for what is happening in America is ethnocentrism. Another symptom of our problem is a cultural divide by groups that refuse to integrate or assimilate into the mainstream. And an educations system that doesn’t have standards or teach true American history. And a press that glories in hate and discontent – just look at the words they choose use.

    Is there prejudice and discrimination of course. Just look how Vermonters treat flatlanders. Look at how Muslims treat each other in the middle east or Afghanistan or how blacks Blacks treat each other in Africa. But in America it’s incredibly negligible.

    How can we be racist? Americans elected a black president who had two black AGs and other senior officials. We have had two black Secretaries of State, two Surgeon Generals, a Supreme Court Judge. one of the top neonatal neurosurgeon in the world, heads of major corporations such as American Express and Carnival Cruise lines. We have governors, mayors state and local reps, fire and police chiefs as well as rank and file FF, Police and EMTs. Heck the Superintendent of Schools in Burlington is a non-Americn Black dude. Where does racism come to play here?

    It is absolutely silly to claim their is institutional racism in Vermont. It is a lie fabricated by people “Shucking and Jiving” the system . I grew up with that term in the Bronx in the late 50’s. My high school had 5,200 guys – half from the South Bronx and Harlem. Our football team was a microcosm of the United Nations. My cousin and I, two Americans of Italian decent were members of a Black Drill team. I serve in the Marines with all ethnic groups. My Head DI was one tough black guy from Bklyn and his two assistance were good ole boys from the south. Hmm, that was in the 60’s.

    I experienced a similar situation as those Black Marines in MD, with a different outcome. It occurred in North Carolina in the sticks outside Swamp Lejeune. We stopped for a beer or two after maneuvers, one of our radar tech was a black kid. Well when the barkeep saw him he said, “we don’t serve no N_____ here.” I said there are no N____ here, just Marines. After a slight verbal confrontation, (well not so slight) my good ole boy Sgt. stepped in – well all were served. Again in the 60’s in the south.

    So again, I say it’s BS and an issue propagated by the racism cottage industry. Is there prejudice yes it exist everywhere for many, many different reasons. It is learned it’s not in our DNA. It is developed over time based on experiences, what we see and hear. Keep in mind if one group keeps falsely accusing another group of issues and insulting their integrity – over time that works to the disadvantage of the accusers. Using violence and in-your-face tactics and rhetoric really does not engender support or sympathy for ones cause.

  2. Don, I agree. But I also imagine that you aren’t holding your breath waiting for some great courage on the part of the current president to speak out against racism. No matter who loves him- and many in Vermont do- he’s no Eisenhower. Agree?

  3. Does racism exist in Vermont ?, of course but it’s not what you think but it is about skin color. Come to Burlington , our schools in it looks like a third world country !!

    We need diversity, but when you flood the schools with these kids needing a special education
    as most are well below the learning levels for there age groups. This is a disservice to the kids
    and a disservice to the tax payers ( inflated budgets ) .

    So why is this happening , because liberals think being white is a ” SIN ” and this will show that
    we are not racist ……………………Fools !!

  4. Racism is back in style, but against white people now. I guess white sjw’s figure they can virtue signal their way to heaven with this crap.
    How about judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Does that not apply to everybody?
    These people are either brain-damaged or evil. No good either way. So two wrongs don’t make a right, but three do?

  5. I’d say racism exists, but it is mostly from white people who hate white people!
    All these years of social justice guilt-tripping have turned many well-meaning but insane people into hating whites. Isn’t that racism? Or does it only apply to blacks?
    Yes I recall the ’60’s, and the attitude shift because racism was no longer cool.
    Sadly, nowadays, the new racism is coming on strong. Demons like Soros use every kind of social division to wreck countries around the world, so his hedge funds can grab the resources, and add to his trillions.
    Soros, who proudly defended his fingering the local Jews to the nazis. And soros is Jewish!
    What I have seen is people turning themselves inside out to get away from that guilt, which they are innocent of.
    Dr. King meant is when he asked us to judge each other by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
    I have met black people in dark alleys, who mugged and robbed me and a friend (not in Vermont).
    Not all black people are saints, any more than all white, asian, female, gay, etc.
    There are all kinds. This current new racism is pushing us back into an unenlightened age, on purpose.

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