Kesha Ram: Vermont’s lack of racial diversity is a retention problem, not a recruitment problem

by Kesha Ram, VT Digger, January 19th, 2021.

This is a misconception about Vermont’s painful history and persistent problems, however. Our lack of diversity is not a problem of recruitment. Vermont, or Ndakinna as it was previously called, has been the home of the Abenaki people for centuries before white settlement. Today, our dairy farms and apple orchards are largely maintained by Latinx and Jamaican workers who live in the shadows, often in substandard housing and working conditions. Overall, 90% of Vermont’s population growth over the last decade has come from the in-migration of Black, Indigenous, and people of color-identifying (BIPOC) residents, largely from refugee resettlement and the pull of higher education and large institutional employers. Many are drawn to our open spaces, working lands, and bustling downtowns and village centers.

Unfortunately, our institutions and communities often fail them after they arrive — or even if they’ve grown up here. Take the well-documented disparities in Vermont’s health care, housing, and policing. According to Department of Health data, Black Vermonters had up to 10 times the rate of Covid-19 infection over white Vermonters during the pandemic. Vermont has one of the highest homeownership gaps between Black and white residents in the country, with 72% of white households and just 21% of Black households owning their homes.

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