Lawmaker: Legislation that prioritizes ‘a particular group of people by name is discriminatory’

Michael Bielawski/TNR

EQUITY BY LAW: Lawmakers in the House Committee on General Housing heard from social justice leaders on how they should distribute more resources based on who is an oppressed or disadvantaged population.

Last week, the House Committee on General Housing reviewed a report from the Vermont Land Access Opportunity Board and discussed racial disparities as a basis for allocating state resources.

Before the scheduled witnesses offered testimony, the chair of the committee, Rep. Thomas Stevens, D-Waterbury, noted that legislation that prioritizes state resources for specific populations is routinely being struck down in courts nationwide.

“Putting aside money for a particular group of people by name is discriminatory — we’re seeing the Supreme Court rule this way, we’re seeing contemporary jurisprudence go this way,” Stevens said. “So the question was, well, we don’t know if that’s constitutional or not if we can put that much money — any money — with this specific purpose in mind.”

Rev. Mark Hughes speaks on racial inequalities

Rev. Mark Hughes, executive director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, addressed committee members about what his group would like to see from lawmakers. In particular, he noted that more white people own homes and farms in Vermont than black people.

Noting that blacks make up about 1.1% of the population in Vermont, Hughes said “0.02% of farmland is owned by black folks in the state.”

He suggested that racial disparities exist there and in many sectors.

“We talk about housing and the disparities that exist there, we can talk about education, we can talk about economic development, we can talk about employment, we can talk about health services, we can talk about transportation, we can talk about the criminal justice system, but time doesn’t allow us to do that,” he said.

Hughes said inheritance plays a role in such inequalities. “You get to inherit, which is cool,” he said.

‘Eradicating systemic racism’

He also said the state operates under systems of systemic racism, but applauded Vermont lawmakers for spending time examining the issue.

“Since I started to do the work of eradicating systemic racism and working to knock down some of these barriers, I have never seen an effort, in terms of outside of the legislative process, when we start talking about implementation, when we start talking about the people that come to the table, and the folks that do the work,” Hughes said.

To combat racism, Hughes said the state needs to allocate $1.2 million this year, with addition funds in the years ahead. He added, “I’m telling you it’s really like a $4.8 million [for four years].”

The ‘historically marginalized’ to be prioritized

Hughes called for resources to be distributed based on which groups are determined to have been “historically marginalized and disadvantaged.”

In past recent legislative sessions, lawmakers have included mandates in marijuana industry policy that favor participants by race as well as mandates that would prioritize land and home ownership by race.

The committee meeting can be viewed online here.

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

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

6 thoughts on “Lawmaker: Legislation that prioritizes ‘a particular group of people by name is discriminatory’

  1. Could Vermont liberal legislators (and NGOS) be anymore guilt ridden? They must be giddy over the poor marginalized people flooding across the Northern border. The next plan will be to give every black person in VT half a million dollars each, or maybe like South Africa start throwing the white farmers off of their land and give it to the marginalized people. I wouldn’t put it past them.

  2. Bill Mahar asked Bernie Sanders how he would differentiate between (the meaning of) equity and equality. Bernie attempted to answer and then said, “I don’t know what the answer to that is” He then said “equality is equality of opportunity. We live in a society where we want all people to have equal opporunity whatever your skin color is…” Bill Mahar then asked “equity is more quarantee of outcome is it not?” Bernie reflected for a moment and said “Yeah, I think so”. So then Bill asked, “so which side do you come down on?” Bernie answered “equality.” Senator Bernie Sanders believes all people should have equal opportunity no matter a person’s skin color. He does not believe in a guarantee of outcome based on skin color. To all equity warriors: please clean out your desks, your lies are exposed, and your racist rhetoric grifting scam is finished.

  3. One biggie on the “Eradicating Systemic Racism” will be impossible to achieve as long as there’s so much money to be made off it. Look to the criminal leaders of the blm bowel movement who spent millions of donations buying themselves mansions in Whities hood. Now every town and business needs to have a equity and racism position.

  4. My grandfather was orphaned at age 6 in 1862. When he reached age 18, it was clear that he would never be able to buy a farm in Vermont. He emigrated to Colorado, via Kansas. He was not able to own a farm until 1910, about 54 years of age. So I could argue that orphans in Vermont were “historically marginalized.” What are we going to do about it?

  5. Just possibly if education were retailored to primary class attendance, not tailored to the age of the student but to the prior educational achievements and to the learning potential of the individual student – which is as doomed to failure as naming heads of government agencies on the basis of skin color rather than proven ability. Teaching a class of mixed learning experience and learning potential is painfully frustrating. There isn’t time to coach the woefully unprepared, educate those of average ability and keep those diligent top learners even engaged. The abilities of individual students, also, varies tremendously. A girl in my third grade class could pencil-draw an exact, virtually photographic image of a teacher, a classmate, an animal. I can’t even draw a round circle. I’m terrible at arithmetic but fairly good at deriving formulae. Some people are facile at learning languages; I’m not, but I do well with English. Our current education doesn’t tailor itself to the individual but, increasingly, tries to indoctrinate the masses with a terrible “equality” that tries to inculcate them with a hive mentality. We’re NOT all the same and a Procrustean system of education doesn’t strengthen the talents at which we have the potential, individually, to excel.

  6. ‘Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.’

    Thomas Sowell

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