Let us stand up and respond to the racism that is so engrained in our society

PUTNEY — An open letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch:

I'm listening to the testimony of Capitol and other D.C. police officers as they share the trauma of Jan. 6, as I grieve for them and for our country.

It is so painful but so true to hear what happened. It may surprise and horrify many of us, but is probably less surprising to people of color, many of whom have experienced abuse on a regular basis.

Several years ago, as part of the work we have been doing in our Quaker meeting (Putney Friends Meeting), we watched a video of a workshop with white people and people of color.

One phrase in that exchange of experiences and feelings has stuck in my gut and keeps coming back to me. One man of color was sharing with and listening to a white woman as she admitted how difficult and frightening it was for her to look at her feelings and how hard it was to act responsibly.

His response was empathetic and clear. All he said was, “Welcome to the pain.”

I hope and pray that we as a culture are finally reaching a point where we can stand up and respond to the racism that is so engrained in our society.

Whether we live in communities that are majority people of color or in places like Vermont where there are relatively few, we all need to know the truth, to stand in the reality of how divided and abusive our country has always been and continues to be.

Here in Vermont, we have the same violence, hatred, ignorance, and denial. There may be less of it, but it is still here, and it impacts us all - not just the few friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latino, immigrant, or other non-white persons.

Because there are more of us who are white, it is even more important for us to take responsibility, and to not hide from the reality of the society in which we live.

Let's not pretend the injustice doesn't affect us. We are all hurt by this behavior, by the hatred, the fear, and the anger.

Our children will not benefit from being taught that the oppression does not exist. They need the knowledge and the skills to turn it around.

Those of us who are white have lived in the privileged environment where we may think this is easy, where we just have to be good and nice. It's not easy, and we can't just be nice and think the problems will go away.

Thank you for all you do to try to make the U.S.A. what I believe we all want it to be: a compassionate, welcoming place for everyone.

Let's keep working together. There's a lot to do.

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