I would like to offer some fact-checking and editing assistance to the folks who created the “Hate does not grow well in the rocky soil of Vermont” banner displayed at the recent WeCAN event in Brattleboro.
First, the fact-checking: I think the statement, as currently phrased, is demonstrably untrue.
Hatred is long- and well-established among our glacial boulders. Ask the Abenaki. Ask the victims of eugenics. Ask migrant workers on our dairy farms. Ask Vermonters of color, who deal with it every day.
When I was a teenager in Brattleboro, our Black next-door neighbor told us he had stopped going downtown altogether, because the racism he encountered there was just too overwhelming.
How would this banner look to him? Would it look like his white neighbors see his struggle? Or would it look like his white neighbors would rather congratulate themselves on an imagined moral superiority than do the real work of addressing racism in themselves and their community?
This banner is a replica of a banner that hung over Route 9 during a protest against out-of-state Ku Klux Klan activity in Wilmington in 1982. At that time, the message was directed at outsiders attempting to sow hatred in Vermont, so the phrasing made more sense.
Even so, I still might have had the same editing suggestions for the banner makers: If we are committed to addressing the roots of hatred and bias in our communities, and we need banners to do that work, let us use the banners to show our intentions rather than to erase the experiences of our neighbors. Let us use an active, rather than a descriptive, phrase: “Root out hatred from the rocky soil of Vermont.”