So, in this sea of racism, bigotry and misunderstanding, a group of white people actually did something in support of Black students, and Black lives, and Vermont's state legislator is BIG mad about it.
Montpelier High School did something very unexpected. They decided to fly the Black Lives Matter flag.
I'm not going to sit here and say that this is a wonderful "leap" into racial nirvana, but I shocked this happened, especially in a school where only 18 of the 350 students are Black.
The Montpelier school board unanimously decided to allow the school to fly the flag for the entire month of February in honor of Black History Month. I know what you're thinking, "UNANIMOUSLY?" Yes!, and no, the entire school board isn't Black, either. Superintendent Brian Ricca told the local station that their decision to raise the flag was actually in par with their larger campaign to promote social justice causes.
And in fact, school officials say that they have received mostly support from the local community for their decision. The state of Vermont is on the forefront of racial equality, I am told. Whatever that means. Maybe it's because the homie, Bernie Sanders, is from Vermont? The majority of the backlash is actually only coming from Republican state legislator Thomas Terenzini. Though there were no protesters at the event, several police officers were sent to the school because of threats coming from outside of the state. In late-January, the local NBC station ran an article about the schools plans to fly the flag.
Now, how did this come about, you ask?
In mid-January, members of the schools Racial Justice Alliance met with the school board to discuss their idea of flying the "controversial" flag.
"I feel like raising this flag will show that we are here and we're here to be heard and we want to be represented in our education," senior and co-founder of the Racial Justice Alliance Joelyn Mensah said.
"I think it's very fair to say that we are pretty much robbed of our education," she said. "As a black student, there have been many times where I have had to leave class because of some racist comments."
The schools Superintendent is of course standing up for the boards decision and the student organization's wishes.
"We are proud to do this because it honors the reality that the experience of our ... black students is not the same as the experience of our white students," Ricca said. "And our goal has been to have a substantive conversation about this, not only in our building but in our community."
Now, the one person who didn't agree with the schools decision? State legislator Thomas Terenzini. He told WPTZ that he felt the school was setting a "bad example." Ahhhh! There's the racist wrench in what would have been an otherwise relatively nice story. He then went on to say that he doesn't consider himself a "bigot' or "prejudiced," but he also doesn't consider Black Lives Matter being an organization to look up to. Sounds about white, I mean, right.
And the bigots I previously mentioned? This article first gained national attention on the Fox News website. Need I say more?
Well, I think this is a nice gesture by the school board, but what I want to know are the school boards plans to lessen the education gap. Raising a flag is one thing, the easy thing. But how are they going to remedy the fact that schools in Black and brown communities receive less funding for decent teachers, sports and clubs, use old and out of date educational materials, and force the children to learn in deteriorating spaces?
How are they going to support those Black students when they are faced with instances of overt racism?
Step one is recognizing the issues of prejudice and inequality. Step two is actually doing something about it and thats where people seem to get stuck.
"People choose their flags because they want to represented and they want to be seen," Mensah told WPTZ. "We students do not feel like we are represented or seen in our education and we are here to raise the flag because we want to be seen and we will demand to be represented in our education." - Joelyn Mensah