Son of Racism Is Bustin’ Out All Over

You think the deadly combo platter of two seemingly needless police killings of black men plus the Dallas killing of police officers by a black man has kinda lanced a boil on America’s psyche? Because everywhere there’s talk of racism — and the denial of same by white folks who are way too defensive about the whole thing.

Last week, I wrote about a bunch of racially-tinged incidents tainting the pure and blessed landscape of Vermont, and now we’ve got some more to share.

Coming up, signs that the authorities in Bennington Still Don’t Get It, even in the face of a potentially expensive lawsuit… and further evidence of cowardice in Vermont’s second city.

But first, the Burlington Free Press reports that some locals have their knickers in a knot because Ferrisburgh’s Rokeby Museum had the audacity to put up some “Black Lives Matter” placards.

The Rokeby is a small museum dedicated, in part, to Vermont’s role in the Underground Railroad. The Robinson family, who lived on the property, were Quaker abolitionists who sheltered runaway slaves. The signs were hung in May to honor “the legacy of the Robinsons as social justice activists.”

In the aftermath of the Dallas shootings, it’s gotten a little tense down Rokeby way.

A young man who came in to ask about the signs, became angry, thinking they supported violence against police and white people — himself included.

One person called and another posted a Facebook message on the museum’s page demanding the signs be taken down… By the end of the day on Friday there were at least five response that left staff feeling vulnerable.

(Note: yes, it’s incorrectly spelled “response” in the Free Press story. No proofreaders need apply.)

Funny, isn’t it, how a single incident of black-on-white violence can shatter the automatic assumption of safety that’s part of White Privilege in America?

(Another aspect of White Privilege is the ability to simply be a lone sociopath, like the white individuals who execute the vast majority of our mass shootings, while brown people who pick up a gun are the tools of hostile forces bent on destroying society.)

For the record, Black Lives Matter is a nonviolent movement and the Dallas shooter had no connection with it. But hey, a little existential fear might be good for us whites. It gives us a taste of what life is ALWAYS like for black Americans and Muslim Americans and Hispanics and women of all races.

There is an element of tension in their lives that is wholly outside the experience of white men. For women, it’s the knowledge that sexual assault continues to be an epidemic and the law is (usually) not on their side. For minorities, it’s the possibility of a needless encounter with authority that takes a dark turn.

Like, say, what happened to Shamel Alexander, a black man from New York City who was the target of an unconstitutional traffic stop that led to his conviction on a drug charge that put him behind bars for three years — until the state Supreme Court threw out the conviction because the traffic stop was out of bounds.

Alexander can’t get his three years back, but he will seek financial restitution through a civil-rights lawsuit filed against the town of Bennington and police officials. He stands a very good chance of cashing in big-time, and I hope he does. Because the town’s police chief STILL doesn’t get it.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette told WCAX-TV that the stop was legal, and defended his department.

“I don’t see us making any changes here,” Doucette told WCAX. He also told the station that, “Racial profiling does not go on within this agency and I wouldn’t allow it. That did not happen here.”

Sorry, Chief, it did. The Supreme Court said so. Deal with it.

p.s. Apparently somebody got to the chief and told him to STFU, because when VTDigger came calling for comment,

Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said Monday that neither he, nor Doucette, would comment.

Smart man. To paraphrase Honest Abe, better to remain silent and be thought a racist than to speak out and remove all doubt. Especially when lawyers are sniffin’ around.

Finally, a return to Rutland, where a group that unfortunately chose to name itself Rutland First is trying to block a plan to settle one hundred Syrian refugees in the city. Just a coincidence, I’m sure they would say, that their name echoes the “America First” cry of Donald Trump and the isolationists who fought our entry into World War II.

I’d like to call your attention to a front-page article in the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus, in which reporter Gordon Dritschilo traveled to Lewiston, Maine, a formerly lily-white community whose downtown and economy have been rejuvenated by an influx of Somali immigrants. He found the fears of disease, violence, racial tensions, and expanded welfare burden were all vastly overblown — that, after some early bumps in the road, “the newcomers have integrated successfully.”

But here’s a telling detail. The trip was arranged by Rutland developer Joe Giancola, who “wanted a look at Rutland’s potential future.” He flew up in his private plane, which had room for extra passengers.

He invited a number of local officials to tag along, but only a reporter took him up on it.

Well, that’s puzzling. A majority of the city’s Board of Aldermen just sent a letter to state officials insisting that they don’t have enough information to give their approval to the refugee plan. But they all turned down a free trip to a city very much like Rutland — predominantly white Northern New England community, still reeling from the loss of its blue-collar industrial base, roughly the same size.

They didn’t think they could learn something?

Or maybe they correctly perceived that they might learn some inconvenient facts.

Profiles in Courage, folks. Profiles in Courage.

A luta continua.


3 thoughts on “Son of Racism Is Bustin’ Out All Over

    1. Dave Katz

      Was it fear of flying that kept the alders at home? Was it fear of Scopesian monkeys? Hey! That linkage gets us to flying monkeys, beloved though fear-inducing denizens of the Wizard of Oz!–how very like your typical Republican wingnut over-reactors! (gives self modest golf clap)

      I’d like to share this VT-centric treatment that came to me the other day, for a Twilight Zone episode, wherein Chief Paul Doucette pulls over Norm McAllister because, in the TZ, Norm McA looks like a black man driving! and to McA, Doucette looks like a 16-year-old legislative page! Hijinks and zany misunderstanding definitely ensue, but, being it’s the Twilight Zone, it ends darkly, with both men being invited to speak at the GOP convention in Cleveland.


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