State of Vermont Gives Lip Service to Mitigating Systemic Racism

How intriguing to read that Vermont State legislators are debating a bill to mitigate “systemic racism” in government and that Governor Phil Scott is “shocked” to hear about “rampant racism” reported in state medical facilities by the Human Rights Commission.

Last year, the Office of the State Treasurer and the Department of Human Resources engaged in a professional lynching of me merely for asking to be protected from a white co-worker with a history of workplace violence. After enduring months of this coworker’s harassment, threats and a final explosive outburst in front of a customer, I documented the fact that I no longer felt safe at work.

The response from the state took six months – and arrived in the form of a formal reprimand. My plea for safety being entirely ignored, I tweeted the governor about what was occurring just one floor below his. His response? Silence. If Gov. Scott is shocked about any racism, it’s because he chooses to be and chose to ignore it, even when it was pointed out to him.

Laws against discrimination, racism, bias and hostile work environments have existed for decades. Only problem is, in places like Vermont State government offices – where white exceptionalism hubris prevails – they become meaningless.

Having worked and lived in various states and countries, it wasn’t until moving to Vermont that I experienced the height of white supremacist race hatred. More important, the State of Vermont is the only employer I have encountered where a hostile workplace environment is tolerated.

Not only did the Vermont Human Resources Department and the Office of the State Treasurer entirely ignore my request for safety, Deputy Treasurer Michael Clasen informed me through my boss that I  had to further endanger myself. Clasen instructed that I “must learn to communicate” with this hostile coworker, even if it meant “standing in front of his desk to get his attention.” That’s when I told my boss I would seek employment elsewhere.

Besides the state and my boss knowing of this man’s aggressive behavior, my boss replied that this coworker “would have killed you. Or at least broken your arm.” when I mentioned that I initially had thought about tapping him on his shoulder to get his attention rather than rapping on a table near his desk.

So another meaningless law will do little to nothing to eliminate spineless behavior on the part of state staff, who, apparently, enjoy wasting taxpayer money to defend the indefensible while allowing workplace bullies to earn a pension.

Doing nothing about my safety concerns, the Vermont Office of the Treasurer and State Department of Human Resources rather claimed I had “embarrassed the state” and “acted unprofessional” (my transgression: “aggressive knocking”, supposedly in front of a customer). Evidently, common sense gets lost when white exceptionalism rules; had the customer been present, there would have been no need for me to alert the coworker. Besides, the customer (whom the state HR investigator never spoke with) had the same recollection of events as had I.

Indeed, the entire process involved with having this ridiculously slanderous piece of garbage removed from my personnel file involved inane questioning loaded with veiled racist stereotypes, and no reference to the customer’s concerns about the coworker being “out of control” and apparently having “issues with race.”

Almost a year after the public outburst by the coworker, I was finally able (after filing two complaints: one with the Human Rights Commission and the other with the Vermont Labor Relations Board) to have the unbelievably absurd reprimand removed from my employment file. Yet, nearly three weeks after quitting the State Treasurer Office, it and the VTDHR continued to retaliate against me. In other words, state leaders chose to utilize their time to attack the complainant rather than to remedy a hostile employment environment.

Mere legislation cannot prevent the egregious vindictiveness shown by the Office of the State Treasurer, which included intentional lying by one of its tech department staff. It will not eliminate the intrinsic white exceptionalism revealed in the racially tinged question of the human resources administrator, and it will never end the petty and subtle displays of bigotry, intolerance and apparent disbelief that a woman whose skin color differs from theirs is in fact skilled and highly qualified for her position.

If Vermont legislators truly want to mitigate “systemic racism”, the best place to start would be within themselves.

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Written by VLHudson

A longtime mass communications professional who believes that the secret of life is to always try to leave things better than the way you found them. To help make life easier and better for others, because life is hard enough on its own.

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