No Woman, No Cry
Sue Minter's loss in the Vermont governor's race was the result of many factors ["Sue Minter on Her Loss, Gender and What's Next," December 7]. To blame it on her gender is disingenuous at best. She is not better qualified to be governor because she is a woman, yet she and her surrogates made that argument in the campaign — just as Hillary Clinton did. Feminism has finally equalized gender politics so that it is not an overriding issue.
'Refugees' — Really?
I was deeply pained that you referred to the African American teens from the Bronx as "refugees" in the subhead of ["Super Second Mom," December 7] — even though the word was in quotation marks.
Why on Earth would you refer to kids from this country as refugees, essentially marking them as "outsiders"? Would you refer to kids who are white from another part of the U.S. as refugees? Using terminology like this reinforces the "otherness" of folks of color, particularly those who are African American, as if they don't belong in places like Vermont. The picture and frame of the story also reinforce the "white savior" narrative — a white person comes to the rescue to make things better for folks of color.
I don't mean to diminish the work of Cam Whittemore, who was featured in the story. It sounds as if she saw a need and put herself out there. Instead, I encourage you as a journalistic entity to think about how race frames not just the content of a story but also the underlying messages.
[Re "Super Second Mom," December 7]: I'm writing to share my concern about the use of the term "refugees" on the cover of the December 7 issue and the publication's decision to spell out the N-word within the article. To call a group of black American teenagers "refugees" contributes to the portrayal of black people as "others" and "outsiders" in media. It strips them of their citizenship and makes Vermont feel even less welcoming to people of color.
In the article, writer Kymelya Sari relies on readers' assumptions about urban (code word for black) areas to create context for the refugee label. This perpetuates the stereotypical portrayal of urban communities as hotbeds of violence and hopelessness. Urban areas are not monolithic; there are rich cultures and positive influences embedded throughout those communities.
I feel it's also important to point out that more attention is given to what these students accomplished for the basketball team than who they were as individuals. Were they simply commodities? Was their worth dependent upon what they could do for the team? Sari offers examples of the racism and hatred these students encountered, but because she never shares how they processed those experiences, it comes off as an unfortunate part of being black in Vermont. And spelling out the N-word without giving space to the weight of that word is careless.
I hope your readers can expect some acknowledgement of how poorly this topic was handled. I always enjoyed Seven Days, but I'm so disappointed by how hurtful and tone-deaf this article was.
Editor's note: This story was a cautionary tale, in anticipation of Syrian families resettling in Rutland. We used the word "refugees" — in quotes, in the subhead — to underscore the connection between the immigrants and this group of African American boys from the Bronx, who encountered blatant racism in Vermont. The coach said it best: "The five young men who were here, they are citizens. Look at what those poor souls went through. How [is Rutland] going to accept 100 people from a different country?"
I wanted to say thank you to Seven Days for publishing the wonderful article about the Buddhist monk driving the bus ["Road to Truth," December 14].
In addition to being a truly enjoyable read, this article promotes cultural understanding among our larger community. With all the division going on in the nation and our communities, it is refreshing to see a publication use its power to bring people together and create understanding and appreciation for our differences. I look forward to reading more pieces like this.
Tax's Time Will Come
Rep. Mary Sullivan (D-Burlington), mentioned in [Fair Game: "Caucus Conundrum," December 7], deserves kudos for making a courageous pitch for the carbon pollution tax at the recent Democratic caucus. Loud, biased opposition to the carbon tax may be worrying some Democrats and Republicans as well as the governor-elect, but it's an approach that's needed now more than ever for Vermont to make significant headway on the carbon pollution driving climate change. I'm reminded of how initially controversial civil unions and then gay marriage were in the state legislature and how, over time, significant majorities passed bills that positively addressed both. Rocking the boat is often a prerequisite for effective change. Bravo, Rep. Sullivan!
Barefoot in the Park
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Solicits Feedback for Redesign of City Hall Park," December 8]: As the city seeks input for the redesign of City Hall Park, I'd like to put in a plug for the good old days in that urban space.
I used to walk through City Hall Park at all hours to and from my job at the Burlington Free Press. I found it to be a welcoming place but never more friendly than it was one steamy night in August 1996.
I lived in a third-floor apartment on South Champlain Street, across from the Chickenbone. Next to the building was a vacant lot with patches of grass, green enough for house-training a puppy.
Katie was 3 months old and eager to please. One evening after midnight, I carried her downstairs and set her down to pee. She obliged, and back upstairs we went.
At our apartment door I discovered we were locked out. I had no pockets to check for the key, because, well, I was wearing nothing but a tank top. I mean nothing. Luckily, I kept a spare key at the Free Press.
I picked up Katie, positioned her below the waist and walked barefoot to the newspaper. At City Hall Park, I took the diagonal walkway that skirts the fountain.
Clusters of people were hanging out in the park. We nodded at each other as I walked by. "Hey, how's it going?" a few men asked. "OK," I said.
When I got to the newsroom, the copy chief was proofing pages. He looked up from his work to see me and my puppy.
"Can I give you a ride home?" he asked.