JRH.6 - JOINT RESOLUTION RELATING TO RACISM AS A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
in the State House of Representatives
on May 12, 2021, by a vote of
Purpose: The purpose of this vote is two-fold. First, to declare white-against-black racism (and to a lesser degree, white-against-minority racism) a public health emergency, encompassing every area of life in Vermont. “Stark and persistent health inequities (are) caused by systemic racism.”
Second, our legislators dedicate themselves to the “deep work of eradicating systemic racism throughout the State, actively fighting racist practices … grounded in science and data.” They hope to achieve “more just and equitable systems” in Vermont.
Analysis: The resolution claims Covid-19 is a public health emergency which has worsened and exposed the racism emergency. It cherry picks data claiming black Vermonters are nearly 5 times more likely to get Covid as white Vermonters in Vermont, and “nearly three times as likely to die” in the US. A Vermont-to-Vermont comparison reveals the politically inconvenient reality. The resolution also lists “social determinants” which have made these supposed health inequities worse, such as home ownership and poverty disparities.
Many of those voting YES believe white Vermonters are guilty of intentional and unintentional racism toward minorities, resulting in “systemic” racism that severely harms the very bodies of minorities, especially blacks. They cite 100,000 more black Americans dying annually due to chronic diseases caused by biological “fight or flight responses” rooted in racism. The racism emergency is equated with the scale of the Covid-19 emergency, suggesting that massive amounts of money (and possible restrictions on free speech) from Vermont taxpayers will be necessary to battle such an unyielding foe. A race-based 'reparations for slavery' income transfer from whites to blacks was brought up during debate. Some supporters equated questioning the resolution with speaking “the words of privilege and white supremacy.” Others voting YES were less supportive of the resolution’s strong language but wanted to stand against racism.
Those voting NO believe that prioritizing racial disparities over other types of social disparities increases the chances that unwieldy proposals for removing racism will hurt Vermonters of all races. Seeing all injustices through the lens of racial disparity may lead legislators to treat other differences with secondary importance. The income gap between Vermont counties to name one example. The sheer number of educational and income inequities across Vermont raises the question of what rises to the level of emergency. Every conceivable inequity between groups of Vermonters could become an emergency, and the government’s responsibility to ‘fix.’ This leaves a limited scope of action for communities and Vermonters can act to reduce inequities within civil society by themselves, forcing every effort to spearheaded by threats from government.
As Recorded in the House Journal, Wednesday, May 12, 2021: “Shall the House adopt the resolution on its part? Rep. Pugh of South Burlington demanded the Yeas and Nays, which demand was sustained by the Constitutional number. The Clerk proceeded to call the roll and the question, Shall the House adopt the resolution on its part?, was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 135. Nays, 8.” (Read the Journal, p. 1113 - 1116)
Watch the Part 1 and Part 2 of the floor debate on Youtube.
How They Voted
(Click on your Rep’s name to send an email)
Sally Achey (R - Middletown Springs) – NO
William Lippert (D – Hinesburg) – YES
Curtis McCormack (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Kirk White (P/D - Bethel) – YES
Rebecca White (D – Hartford) – YES
Dane Whitman (D - Bennington) – YES
Terri Lynn Williams (R - Granby) – YES
Theresa Wood (D – Waterbury) – YES
David Yacovone (D – Morristown) – YES
Michael Yantachka (D – Charlotte) – YES
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