Johnson GOP vice chair: ‘Systemic racism exists in Vermont to this day’

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Shayne Spence of Johnson. He is vice chair of Johnson’s Republican Committee.

Frequently, in my conversations about systemic racism, I am asked to show examples of systemic racism in today’s world.

Many, especially those who lived through the civil rights movement in the 1960s, feel like once that movement achieved its culmination in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the work of racial justice was complete.

While the work of previous generations was undeniably important and groundbreaking, systemic racism exists in Vermont to this day. One of the most glaring examples of systemic racism in society today is disparities in homeownership.

Recently, in Vermont’s largest county, a study was done to compare homeownership numbers for Black Vermonters vs. white Vermonters. That study found that, while 64% of white Vermonters in Chittenden County owned their home, the same is true for only 17% of Black Vermonters.

It’s easy to write these off as symptoms of nonsystemic factors, but doing so would ignore a significant amount of the history of homeownership. A lot of people have this romantic notion that they “earned” everything they have in their lives, and I do not mean to discount people’s hard work, but in this country, homeownership has been heavily subsidized. And for many years, that subsidization was reserved, as a matter of both public and private policy, for white people.

The 17%-64% disparity is the downstream result of that racist policy decision, a policy decision that had impacts on the lives of Black people living still today. A person who was denied a housing loan in the years before 1968 because of the color of their skin was also denied a significant amount of upward mobility, as well as a tool to build generational wealth.

In fact, studies have shown that such a denial would lead to the typical Black family losing out on $212,000 over the next 40 years. And while redlining was outlawed in 1968 under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and restricted further in the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, the practice continues today as “reverse redlining,” whereby banks offer predatory, high-interest loans in formerly redlined neighborhoods, while offering lower-interest loans in nearby neighborhoods.

One could certainly make the argument that this denial of access to publicly funded programs is cause for some form of reparations — though that is a topic for another day.

The truly sad thing about all of this is that the Vermont Democratic Party, while talking a big game about racial equity, remains unwilling to make the decisions that would allow this disparity to lessen. Their unwillingness to reform Act 250 in ways that would encourage housing development holds back both public and private actors seeking to alleviate the issue.

Gov. Phil Scott has made several proposals that would make it easier for affordable housing to be built in rural areas, which would encourage people of all types to flock to Vermont, but they have been rejected out-of-hand by the Legislature. Whether that is because the idea would not work, or due to pure political gamesmanship, we will never know, because the Legislature refuses to even take these ideas up for a full debate.

I will never claim to have all the answers on these tough issues, but one thing is for sure — a continued regime of one-party rule in Vermont has not solved this issue, and shows no signs of doing so in the future.

If Vermonters want to see the type of creative thinking required to solve this and other major issues we face, we can’t keep empowering a comfortable supermajority with no incentives to change their ways. We must seek balanced voices in Montpelier, voices that will look beyond the commands of party leadership for the answers that help Vermonters of all kinds.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

38 thoughts on “Johnson GOP vice chair: ‘Systemic racism exists in Vermont to this day’

  1. The main takaway of Shane’s article for me was this: “The truly sad thing about all of this is that the Vermont Democratic Party, while talking a big game about racial equity, remains unwilling to make the decisions that would allow this disparity to lessen. Their unwillingness to reform Act 250 in ways that would encourage housing development holds back both public and private actors seeking to alleviate the issue.”

    Shane and I don’t agree much on systemic racism, but we certainly do agree that Act 250 interferes with the opportunity for ordinary people to own property. Instead of arguing about cause of existing disparities, let’s look at what incentives can work for the least advantaged in their efforts to build a quality life for themselves and their families.

  2. Here is an example of our educational system… is an example of subversion from within the Universities…..clearly no research has been done, only regurgitation of indoctrination and talking points.

    I bet Michael could investigate this situation and we could experience some real reporting, a more complete picture of what is going on.

  3. The population of black residents in Chittenden County are mainly from the “resettlement program” as Burlington was and is a “welcoming city”. So we’ve brought in a very large population of immigrants because…..diversity. These new residents speak very little English, have few mainstream skills and are being supported by taxpayers. They have increasingly large families and are given more money for each child in the household, as all welfare recipients are. Our school system is strained and ever more costly as a result. Tax payer funded meals are three a day through schools also. The white population has been here and work because of their ability to do so. There is money and property purchased through hard work and some that has been transferred over time within families, who work and support themselves and pay an exorbitant tax bill to keep other residents afloat. Not all immigrants for sure but most who come here are receiving tax payer funded benefits. So, the immigrant black population has resettled here. They speak little English, making traditional employment difficult. They continue to have children and speak their native language in the home. The costs to the homeowners is exorbitant. And now, the suggestion is to give these new citizens property and homes because of their skin color? Our “systemically racist” county brought them here, and has bent over backwards to support them through increased tax dollars and programs and now….because it’s never enough….we’re going to give them homes and land because “RACISM!”. Ridiculous.

    • It should also be noted that a significant number of White VT homeowners live in substandard conditions without running water, proper sanitation, internet access, etc. Nevertheless, they own the land on which their house or trailer is located.
      We need equitability, equality, not the pitting of people against each other.

  4. So of the other 83%….how many are captured in Vermont’s poverty trap known as “affordable housing?”

    So Vermont makes a bunch of “affordable” housing. It’s the real poverty trap, that is not only trapping Vermonters, it’s now trapping people moving to our state.

    systemic racism….???

    Definitely Planned Parenthood, who funded the entire Vermont Democratic Party.
    National TV
    National News
    Our “affordable housing trap” where nobody OWNS a home!!!! Just as stated!!! Courtesy Bernie!
    Our Schools Systems
    Our DCF that pay people incentives to not marry and break up families.

    Yeah the big city social programs that we’ve adopted are completely oppressive to all colors, now they are oppressive to POC so it’s racist? It’s oppressive….just look at our DCF profiles..

  5. Well articulated; just looking at the comments here, it’s obvious why the Vermont GOP is struggling. When the only rebuttals to the arguments you put forth are a mixture of racism, ad hominem, and plugging ones ears saying “nuh-uh”. It’s clear how powerful right wing propaganda has entrenched this little state’s opposition party.

    Act 250 is a plague on the state. I hope we find a way to either completely scrap it, or develop a comprehensive reform that encourages and cheapens lower income and out of Chittenden county development. If VT GOP rallied around sensible policy and got rid of some of this cult of personality nonsense, they would have a chance at bringing the VT Dems down a notch or two.

    But no, let’s scream about communism and planned parenthood and hope people take us seriously.

    • It’s highly relevant to push back on critical race theory and the idea of systemic racism. There is no doubt that systemic racism exists, but there is also no doubt that systemic poverty exists, and systemic drug abuse, too. We have all kinds of things wrong with our “system.” But the solution isn’t to swear allegiance to CRT and to accuse all white people of being racist, any more than the solution to poverty is to insist that all people middle class and above admit that their (unconscious) actions and thoughts are what’s holding other people back.

      We all need to treat each other fairly regardless of the color of their skin, and have respect for all people. Let’s teach that in the schools rather than teach that all white people are guilty of the sins of their forefathers, and that people should be judged by the color of their skin (but only if they’re white.)

      Vermont has succumbed to the specious arguments of CRT, a highly irrational theory that’s really not any sort of logical theory at all, but a doctrine. We should rightly be alarmed at its ascendancy; it deserves to be quashed.

      CRT seems to be part of a design to weaken America, divide us, and get us to repudiate the principles upon which our country was founded. Why is this happening now after our economy, and many people’s lives, have been devastated by Covid-19? Don’t we have enough to worry about? Aren’t there enough pressing problems right now, so that we might dispense with swearing allegiance to CRT and get on with the business of making sure this sort of police state never happens again? Or is the whole point to get us to align with “the greater good,” brought to us by none other than the Big Brother state? No? Nothing at all to do with the push for a Great Reset of all humanity for justice, peace, happiness, and togetherness? That this reset will require a police state, in exactly the same manner as Covid-19 supposedly required a medical police state, is something they are keen not to let on. But the WEF (World Economic Forum) said it loud and clear: we’re never going back to normal! CRT appears to be part of the attempt to make sure that we don’t: “justice” lies within the WEF’s Great Reset. No doubt, but to get there apparently we have to destroy reason and common sense.

      So yes, we should pay attention to this.

      • It seems like you have a lot of problems with CRT, but nothing concrete? If I thought CRT meant that someone should feel guilty due to the sins of their forefathers, then sure, I might be against it, too.

        Luckily, that is not at all what CRT is. The fact that people keep parroting these false talking points really goes to show that Fox News and right wing super PACs really do have a lot of people wrapped around their fingers. It’s insane that the same people who so often claim to be skeptical of big media, are the same ones repeating falsehoods about CRT.

        Largely all CRT is, is teaching people that many laws, and especially their implementations, have systematically hurt people of color. I can’t imagine being so caught up in the propaganda to think this means we have to accuse all white people of being racist. That literally is just a dog whistle made up to rile up ultra-right wing extremists who would rather watch Fox News than read up on what CRT actually is. A good starting place to perhaps undo some of the brainwashing:

  6. Well, Shayne, I guess you’re not hateful and bigoted enough for this non-representative slice of the GOP that represents the dregs of Vermont politics.
    I know a racist preacher who could give you lessons…

  7. Appears the VT GOP is being infiltrated by the woke SJWs . Another prime example of our education system is teaching Marxism. No matter what side of the political aisle, they are pushing the race war and the civil war systemically. Our State is in serious, serious trouble.

  8. One way to think about things is to imagine we had a choice of which race we were to be born into.
    How many of us, if we came from the same working background would choose to be black or brown.

    While of course the major factor is what we make of our own lives and things in the United States and Vermont in particular are far better than they were 50 years ago and for that matter far better than much of the world, there are still some challenges to being of color and some prejudice that we should be aware of and work to lessen when we can.

    How we do that is certainly a matter for discussion and debate. While acknowledging the history of slavery and discrimination in our nation, there is unfortunately at times a tendency of instead of focusing on positive examples and practical ways of expanding opportunity to wallow in grievances and peddling guilt which can be destructive and counterproductive.

    • I do not think focusing on guilt and grievances is a worthy use of our time and efforts. I prefer instead to look at specific racial disparities that exist, such as the disparity in home ownership I mentioned, and seek to find answers other than the government dependency approach often taken by the Democrats. Rather than seeing them take their preferred approach of reparations, paid for by taxpayers who were not complicit in the historical racism of this country, I’d rather see us take an approach that benefits all, and has the added benefit of helping people of color increase home ownership as well.
      This is the first time I’m learning that pursuing comprehensive Act 250 reform makes me a Democrat, as others here seem to think.

      • Before assuming it’s racism, one might want to know why the 83% didn’t buy homes.

        It’s such a simple question. If someone wanted to know the answer and find out why we have a housing disparity, that might lead us to an answer.

        How many people in DCF own homes? My guess….17%.

        It’s really sad when people don’t investigate things before making such disparaging comments.

  9. I do believe there is systemic racism here in Vermont, even today. It’s called Planned Parenthood and they have a formidable grip on our Legislature, Education System, and Healthcare System.

  10. thats because the majority of the black people moving here to to be near people in jail or are the people getting out of jail

  11. Should I buy a nice black family a home, before i buy one for myself?

    I may be motivated and able to work hard enough to buy 2 homes and give one away,
    But I might rather hire a strong worker, help them succeed, promote them with raises and be thrilled when they Lift themselves into home ownership with their own sweat, education and efforts.

    • Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.
      Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

      • I’ve heard it a different way:

        Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
        Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

        Give him someone else’s fish, and you have a democrat…

  12. Mr. Spence should be allowed some slack for his naivete. He’s only 28 or 29 years old, with very limited experience. That he is the Vice Chair of the Johnson Republican Party is clearly not a verification of his economic expertise or judgement.

    Why, for example, does Mr. Spence focus on Chittenden County in his citation on ‘systemic’ racism? What ‘system’ is he considering? Chittenden County is the least representative county of all the other Vermont counties, and that in a State that is anything but demographically representative of the U.S. as a whole.

    The study Mr. Spence cites “found that, while 64% of white Vermonters in Chittenden County owned their home, the same is true for only 17% of Black Vermonters.” Okay. So what? What does such a limited study tell us about anything ‘systemic’?

    State-wide, for example, the percentages are significantly different. State-wide only 42% of white Vermonters owned their home (not 64%), while 28% of Black Vermonters do (not 17%).

    Is this a surprise in a State that is only 1.4% African American? And these statistics don’t include home ownership by multi-racial families. They don’t include Experian or Transunion credit scores. They don’t consider intentions. Perhaps some African American families want to rent, not own. After all, who wants to commit to pay Vermont’s outrageous property taxes?

    Does racism exist in Vermont? Yes. Is it systemic? I see no evidence to support that contention. After all, if anything in ‘the system’ was discriminatory (i.e. racist), it would be ligated in our court system in a heartbeat.

  13. I just watched a video that would cause racism. Good thing I can’t post it here.

  14. Racism does not equal systemic racism. Since the founding of the country, the work and progress has been that of systemic antiracism – or rather antidiscrimination – culminating indeed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Laws don’t end the wrongs they are written to address, but they do define what is “systemic”. There is no systemic racism. There’s not even pervasive racism, for that matter, but that’s another argument.

  15. Every single person has an equal opportunity to move up the ladder, but that requires dedication, long hours, education and hard work.

    There is no guarantee of equal outcome, given that some are willing to work for it while others aren’t.

  16. The GOP better run from this fool, ” Systemic Racism ” now within homeownership,
    give me a break !!

    All I see in this article is more ” Systemic Nonsense ” …………………..

      • So says the class run by your friends.

        Why are there only, your anti racist, or racist? What is anti- racist?

        Why can’t you be more loving and forgiving, wouldn’t that be the cure?

        Systemic oppression is real, it’s call socialism. It’s called engineered poverty of which Vermont is really good at.

  17. This sounds like nonsense to me. Give us real facts, like the education level and work history and show us that somehow black people equal in education and work ethic still can’t get a house.

  18. I read this opinion with an open mind and realized your an IDIOT and the GOP should get as far away from you as posible.

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