Hallquist wades into racism debate in Vermont

The champion of Vermont’s LGBT movement for her status as the first major party transgender gubernatorial candidate in the nation is now throwing her hat into the systemic racism debate.

Christine Hallquist jumped into the issue of alleged racism in Vermont earlier this month when she wrote a commentary comparing her experience transitioning from Dave Hallquist to Christine to the experience some minorities supposedly face in the Green Mountain State.

Christine Hallquist for Vermont

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist

“I have spent a lot of time over the past weeks and months talking to Vermonters and sharing my story of how Vermont accepted and welcomed me after I transitioned. However, recent events and conversations have made me keenly aware of how far Vermont still has to go to be a welcoming place for all,” Hallquist said in her statement.

Among the events cited as proof of racial tensions include Muslim Girls Making Change performing “slam poetry on the bias and bigotry they face on a regular basis here in Vermont.” She also cited state Rep. Kiah Morris, who resigned suddenly last month while claiming she was the target of race-based threats.

In many cases, the alleged incidents of racism and threats around the state remain unsubstantiated. After conducting a thorough investigation of alleged threats made against Morris, police in Bennington said they did not find enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime.

“All of the complaints filed by Representative Morris and her husband James have been investigated appropriately and efficiently,” police chief Paul Doucette said. “… I didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.”

As for the poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change, its members have been receiving awards, accolades and performance opportunities for their work and ethnicity since they formed in 2015.

Hallquist nonetheless expressed shame over the social climate of Vermont.

“That Vermont has allowed continued harassment of and threat to Vermonters of color makes me feel ashamed,” she wrote. “We can do better, but we must recognize that the Vermont we celebrate as welcoming and kind, is often only that if you are white.”

She added that she doesn’t have specific solutions to combat “embedded and structural racism,” and said society can no longer “address these issues with just thoughts and prayers … it will take action.”

This past year Vermont lawmakers advanced legislation to deal with racism at the state level. After an initial veto, Gov. Phil Scott signed a revised bill that sets up a Racial Equity Advisory Panel and a cabinet-level Executive Director of Racial Equity that are tasked with countering alleged racism in state institutions.

Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, was one of two African American state senators to vote against the original racism bill, S.281. He told True North Reports it surprised him to hear Hallquist claim that racism may have been a deciding factor in her run for office.

“The fact that there are some people who are racist goes without saying. … [But] It is certainly not something that is so prevailing,” Brock said. “My sense is that if Christine is saying what she’s saying, it’s overblown.”

Brock, who has served in many public roles in state government, reflected on his own experiences in Vermont and at the Statehouse.

“African Americans represent about 1.3 percent of the population [in Vermont], and if I count the fact that there were two of us in the Senate in the last session, myself and Senator [Francis] Brooks from Washington County, we represent 6 percent of the Senate,” he said.

“If this were such a racist society I don’t think you’d see those kinds of numbers. … In a heavily racist society that would not have happened.”

Brock noted that civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. called for people to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

“I am concerned that there are some who are moving towards a society composed of individual small groups of people who differentiate themselves from the rest of society. I don’t think that’s at all healthy,” he said. “Vermont is strengthened less by diversity and more by inclusion.”

Rep. Valerie Stuart, D-Brattleboro, has a different view. She said she used to live with Morris and believes Morris experienced racism, stalking and other negative bias. She told True North she strongly supports Hallquist’s push for social justice and equality.

“We just have to end this scourge on people of color and our people who are different in any way, whether it’s transgender or gay or whatever,” she said. “We just need to become a color- and gender-neutral society I think, and until we do we will not be a healthy society.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Christine Hallquist for Vermont

16 thoughts on “Hallquist wades into racism debate in Vermont

  1. True Vermonters don’t even know what racism is all about! You’d have to so South to see it. As a child I grew up in Maryland and if you wanted to ride on a city bus and you were black you had to wait until all the white got on board and then you had to sit in the back. The same with getting off. People don’t stop to realize today it isn’t color that counts it is character. There are whites that are totally disgusting! For starters just look at Bernie Sanders!

  2. Hallquist wants to impose a carbon tax, after a “study” by a pro carbon tax entity.
    Hallquist wants to further restrict guns and gun ownership.
    Hallquist wants to start government programs to distribute the carbon tax to energy poor people.
    Hallquist is supported by all the RE entities, because they will get more subsidies for their projects.
    Hallquist wants to increase the refuge flows to Vermont.
    Hallquist wants to further decrease the effectiveness if Vermont police forces to stop illegal immigrants at the Canadian border.
    Hallquist changing the subject to side issues like race, gender, etc., is just to divert our attention from the real issues.

  3. Let’s all propose “solutions” so’s we can go looking for problems to match. What else would the ProgDems have to do?

  4. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    H. L. Mencken

    • Personally I wold rather wear a flip flop then a carbon tax.

      But hey, I jumped ship two years ago while wearing flip flops. Just sayin’

  5. As stated in this article in many cases, the alleged incidents of racism and threats around the
    state remain unsubstantiated…….throw something out and see if it sticks………Pretty SAD !!

    But if you’re running for a Political Office jump on any bandwagon, be it fact or fiction it may get
    you more Votes !!

    Vermont do you want a Governor or an Agenda ……………………

      • [But what about the fact that, in VT, blacks and hispanics are about 3 times more likely to be pulled over and searched by police? Is that “unsubstantiated”? Is that not “racism”?]

        The last two questions attest to ignorance of the conditions/circumstances involved in the first. I was not, and doubt that you were, witness to any of them. Why not find a real cause to crusade for, like the deteriorated economic conditions in the state?

      • Makes you wondering are minority officers doing the pulling over? Is there any discrepancy in the rate of minorities being pulled over bases on the ethnicity of the officer? Was that included in the study? Perhaps it was and I missed it.

        Perhaps if Vermont allowed window tinting it would help.

  6. For those who are so adamant that change is necessary please identify the actions you intend to take to make Vermont into a color and “gender” neutral society? Are you building the reeducation camps already or are you going to use some form of shock therapy? It seems to me that you are attempting to make a mountain out of molehill just for the sake of a campaign issue. In any group of 600,000 people there are bound to be a few who are problems, but there always were and always will be. I find it disgusting that you slander the entire state with so little evidence. By the way, when my white ancestor first came to Vermont in 1786 (after serving in the Revolutionary War he was immediately voted out of town. How’s that for a welcome to Vermont?

  7. If I ever get the chance to meet Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, it will be my honor to shake his hand. We don’t need a “victim mentality” here in Vermont. Do we really have a problem in Vt. or our we just looking for one?

    • He’s a good man, I met him many years ago at the Tunbridge Fair. If there were more Vermonters like him I would of stayed.

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