There are many things about Vermont that can’t be denied: it has beautiful green mountains, the best maple syrup (don’t try to fight me on this), and an overwhelmingly white population. It’s the second whitest state in the country falling behind Maine. But unlike the mountains and maple syrup, the 94.6% white population isn’t something that most Vermonters like to brag about. The state’s whiteness won’t be explicitly displayed on a “Greetings from Vermont!” postcard. It isn’t even something that most white Vermonters acknowledge until they find themselves in the presence of a person of color. Vermont’s whiteness is the state’s not so secretive secret.
Don’t get me wrong I love Vermont. I love creemees, apple picking, and the kind nature of Vermonters in general. I’ve lived here my entire life and so I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, but as a person of color, I’ve also felt really out of place.
Being a POC in Vermont has been lonely for me and the other Vermonters of color I’ve met. We’ve lived most our lives as the only ones; the only POC in our classes, the only POC in our extracurricular activities, the only POC (excluding family members) in our neighborhoods. We’ve found that being the only one is exhausting.
It’s exhausting in ways that white folks have never considered. They’ve never thought about buying their hair care products in the tiny, separately labeled “ethnic hair” section of the store. They’ve never thought about bracing themselves for impact before walking into a classroom on the first day of school or before meeting their friend’s family for the first time. They’ve never thought about preparing themselves to be on the receiving end of racist jokes or hearing “my parents say I can’t hang out with you” and knowing, even as a child, exactly what that means. They’ve never thought about experiencing bigotry and then being told that it’s just a “difference of opinion” as if that should lessen the pain.
It’s because of all of these reasons and more that I’m happy to be able to hold a space at the Peace & Justice Center specifically for people of color. Although the specifics of our experiences may differ, POC in Vermont from any marginalized racial group can can relate to these struggles.
I hope that the POC in VT Affinity Group will bring Vermonters of color together not only to explore our identities as minorities in a predominantly white state but to also bond and build the community that is lacking for many of us.
The first POC in VT meeting is on May 17 from 6:30-7: 30pm at the PJC. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at program@pjcvt.org or by calling 802-863-2345 x9.
– Kina Thorpe, PJC Programming Assistant