Racists 'Clean Up' Vermont State House By Forcing Out Only Black Woman Rep
Vermont, the deep blue state that's home to Bernie Sanders and hippie ice cream, is not immune to racism. That's a bit of a shock because the current population is only 1.2 percent black. It's one thing to hate in the abstract but with so few black residents, you'd literally have to hate "Sheila" down the street. But that's the situation for Kiah Morris, the only black woman in the Vermont House of Representatives, who resigned Tuesday after enduring two years of racial harassment (no, not just the Trump administration).
Morris received the full gift bag of racist crap, like she was a black guest at a Klan wedding -- racist tweets, online threats, and then swastikas on trees next to her property. She claims the response from the Bennington Police Department "left a lot to be desired." In fairness, the police were probably waiting until the trees recovered to interview them.
She'd announced in August that she wasn't seeking reelection due to the "dangerous" and "divisive" discourse on social media, but her husband is recovering from heart problems and really who needs this crap?
Twitter user "Max Misch" responded to Morris's 2016 Democratic primary win by tweeting an offensive caricature of a black person (no, not this one) with the caption "I be representin dem white mother fuckers of Bennington." He explained that he was merely "demonstrating the absurdity of a black woman being a Vermont state representative." The troll continued to try to contact Morris and even showed up at the Bennington firehouse on Election Day, Nov. 8, where he reportedly stared at her "for an extended period of time in a threatening way with the intention of intimidation." A judge later issued a protective stalking order against "Misch" (so I guess that's his real name -- my sympathies). He self-identifies as holding white nationalist beliefs and before his account was suspended, he often retweeted white supremacists. Misch, who represented himself in the proceedings like your typical arrogant psycho from "Law & Order," argued that the protective order was a "travesty of justice."
"Rep. Morris utilized the judicial system to legally silence one of her constituents, a political activist and a U.S. Army veteran who honorably served his country, including a combat deployment to Iraq," Misch wrote in an email.
Morris says she has no evidence that Misch is the same asshole who redecorated her trees and vandalized her home. It could be some other unhinged racist in Bennington, which has a population of just 15,000. That's not comforting. Morris also says that ahead of her reelection campaign this year, her family received a death threat, which her seven-year-old son saw.
"When I looked at all of this in the aggregate and realized the severity of what we could be facing," she said, "I knew I needed to focus on my family and our safety. As a black mother, it's my role to emulate the strength and courage that's necessary to deal with a world that's not rehearsed at dealing with issues of race, that in many ways is stacked against people of color, and those lessons about the threats to our lives that happen just because of our mere existence should not have to come in this format. It should not have to come into my son's heart that way."
Odd how she remains graceful in the wake of all this and doesn't explode in entitled fury like a common Brett Kavanaugh.
This wasn't the only threat Morris's family has received in the past years. Her husband, James Lawton, blames white supremacist groups both in and outside the state and complained on Facebook that the FBI "told us there 'wasn't enough evidence to open a case.'" Morris has pointed to a "visible rise" of white supremacy in her area during the 2016 presidential election, and says Neo-Nazi recruitment fliers were left all over town. This is not the Vermont I remember from my youth.
Morris spent her four-year tenure as an advocate for racial justice, women's and workers' rights, and health-care access. Vermont State Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said it would be "hard to match her enthusiasm and commitment."
Yeah, it's been a tough week.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).