Racial Justice Platform

While Vermont is a predominantly White state, a majority of its population growth over the last decade has come from the in-migration and resettlement of people of color and New Americans. People of color have also always been part of the fabric of our state, from the stewardship of this land by the Abenaki people to the free and enslaved Black Americans who shaped our history to the migrant farmworkers who continue to keep our dairy industry alive. As our overall population stagnates and declines, we must be a welcoming, diverse, and equitable state to continue to see workforce growth, tourism, and economic development.

Before and during the pandemic, we have seen the dampening and dangerous effect of racism on the lives and well-being of people of color, especially Black Vermonters and Americans. From Black Vermonters with out-of-state plates being told to leave the state to Black Vermonters being nearly twice as likely as White Vermonters to test positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, we cannot remain neutral on the topic of racial justice. All Vermonters, especially Vermonters of color, deserve to know from candidates how they will advance an anti-racist platform in the legislature.

With recognition of and respect for the tireless work of many individuals and organizations such as ACLU Vermont, Justice for All, Migrant Justice, the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic & Social Equity in Schools, the Vermont Executive Director on Racial Equity, the Vermont NAACP, the Vermont Council on Native American Affairs, and others, our campaign is putting forth the following racial justice plan:

Health & Economic Equity in COVID-19 Recovery

Any effort to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic must be equitable for all Vermonters. 1 in 1,850 Black Americans have died from COVID-19 across the U.S. In Vermont, Black residents have tested positive for COVID-19 at a rate nearly double that of White residents, and Hispanic residents have also tested positive at a disproportionately high rate. Black, Hispanic, and Asian Vermonters are also less likely to have a primary care provider than White Vermonters. Small businesses owned by people of color across this country are still waiting to receive federal emergency loans. Our response and recovery in Vermont has to account for the inequities that Vermonters of color already experience in access to education, health care, and employment.

Kesha supports:

  • Ongoing data collection and research into disparate health care access and outcomes in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Universal access to health care decoupled from employment.

  • All migrant workers deemed essential being able to access stimulus resources and financial support, regardless of citizenship.

  • Increased access to capital for minority-owned and women-owned small businesses.

Environmental & Climate Justice

Vermont is one of the last states in the country without a formal policy to address environmental justice or disproportionate burdens of pollution and negative health outcomes. People of color and low-income communities in Vermont, particularly in mobile home parks, suffer disproportionate place-based risks. Vermont has a homeownership gap of 76% between Black Vermonters and other Vermonters, one of the highest in the nation. Preliminary analysis from the University of Vermont shows that 83 percent of the state’s Superfund sites, 42 percent of the Brownfield sites, and 67 percent of the landfills are in areas where at least 10 percent of the population identify as people of color. Additionally, 72 percent of these sites are "special flood hazard" areas.

Kesha supports:

  • The formation of an Environmental Justice Work Group to begin crafting an environmental justice policy framework in Vermont.

  • The use of screening tools and data about health, pollution, and disaster prone areas to resource environmentally distressed communities and prioritize their environmental remediation and disaster resilience.

  • A Green New Deal to give frontline communities access to renewable energy jobs, green infrastructure, and healthy homes.

Criminal Justice Reform & Accountability in Policing

Criminal justice reform in Vermont must begin with addressing the school-to-prison pipeline. According to ACLU Vermont, students of color and students with disabilities are 2 to 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled in our schools. Vermont has disparities in police encounters with Black men leading to arrest that rival Mississippi. Black drivers are between 3.2 and 3.9 times more likely to be searched, while being half as likely to have any contraband as their White counterparts. Black men make up only 1 percent of the state population, but they make up 11 percent of Vermonters experiencing incarceration.

Kesha supports:

  • Equal access to educational opportunity and legislation to reduce the use of suspension and expulsion to modify behavior in our schools.

  • Collection, analysis, and public reporting on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

  • Moving from a judicial system of cash bail to risk assessment.

Reparations & Affirmative Support of Black Vermonters

Black lives matter in Vermont, from Alexander Twilight, America’s first Black college graduate who matriculated at Middlebury College and spent his life teaching in the Northeast Kingdom, to the Rokeby House that represented one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad, to the Buffalo Soldiers of the early 20th century who helped shape the landscape. Across the country, even in Vermont, we are struggling to reconcile with the original sin of our nation’s enslavement of Black people. Its legacy includes vast gaps in wealth, home ownership, and life expectancy. As of 2016, a typical White household in America has a net worth of $171,000, nearly ten times the net worth of a typical Black household at $17,600. It is likely this gap has grown significantly since the onset of the pandemic.

Kesha supports:

  • A task force to study the history of exploitation of slave labor in Vermont and the question of reparations, and to make legislative recommendations to address gaps in wealth, home ownership, and life expectancy.

  • The possible use of revenue from the legalization of marijuana to help formerly incarcerated individuals access housing, career opportunities, and capital.