A Racial Equity Task Force is being formed in Vermont as a broader state effort to promote racial, ethnic, and cultural justice. However, the pandemic has slightly shifted the goals of the task force.
Racial Equity Executive Director, Xusana Davis said, “Now the first goal of the task force is to evaluate the disparity that we have seen with COVID-19 cases.”
The three goals the task force is focusing on are:
- Evaluate structures of support for racially diverse populations, including a focus on the racial disparities in health outcomes highlighted by COVID-19
- Review current state and federal law on hate speech and freedom of speech and considering changes to state law to clarify the path for prosecuting harassment, hate speech and other bias-motivated crimes
- Study and present options to encourage Vermonters from diverse, marginalized or underrepresented racial-ethnic groups to run and serve in public office at all levels.
Davis said, “Understanding what supports we have of people of color in Vermont today is going to help to prepare for Vermont’s future. Which is going to be a lot more multicultural and a lot more diverse.”
Xusana also said there is more to come from the state. There will be a steady flow of hard-hitting policies and initiatives coming out at the state and local level.
“I really encourage people not to get too comfortable thinking well they’ve got it under control. It really is for everybody to step up and do something”, said Davis.
Vermonters can help by staying educated and engaging their children with the current issues. Understanding the history of inequity in our country is important. Another thing you can do is get involved and stay up to date on the bills that are being introduced in the legislature.
“Some people might look at the protests that we have been seeing and say ‘well isn’t that uncalled for. Why are they so upset? It is just one person’. It is not just one person. This is one out of many many many people.”
The task force will submit recommendations to the Governor on their first project by August 15th and beginning recommendations for the second and third projects by December 15th. The group will also help Governor Scott with guidance as they are needed.
The Task Force will be led by Davis and include up to seven additional members, including representatives from the Governor’s office, law enforcement, a Vermont chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, and a member of the public.