Well, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray kinda stepped in it, as she tried a little too hard to celebrate Vermont and Vermonters yesterday. In response to the news that we’ve passed the 80% vaccination mark, Gray tweeted out a quote from Calvin Coolidge, staunch conservative and native Vermonter.
I love Vermont… most of all, because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.
Seems benign, right? Nice gesture by a prominent Democrat to promote a famous Republican (albeit a dead one)?
Well, maybe not if you’re a Vermonter of Native American heritage.
The people of Vermont “are a race of pioneers,” huh? That pretty well covers white Vermonters. But it excludes the people who were here first, and who were nearly exterminated by that doughty “race of pioneers.”
Coolidge was a man of his times, and his times were unabashedly racist. This was the age of the eugenics movement, Jim Crow, Sacco and Vanzetti, a complete ban on Asian immigrants achieving citizenship, and so many other stains on our nation’s professed values.
This illustrates the importance of diversity in workplaces. If Gray had an Abenaki in her circle of advisors, she might have avoided this misstep.
I write this, having recently praised Gray’s political acumen. I haven’t changed my mind about her, but ain’t none of us perfect. This was an unforced error on her part.