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Letters to the Editor (5/5/21)

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Mass. Illusion

So glad to see the "consumers" happy with the Lee, Mass., weed shop ["The Grass Is Greener," April 14] and the testimony from Luis Foster saying, "The shit on the street? You don't know where it's from ... Here you can trust it."

OK, then! This from the state that "regulated" a compounding pharmacy where many customers died. And twice, hundreds — if not thousands — of criminal cases were thrown out because two "lab technicians" in two different labs were busted for taking evidence and using it on the job.

"Trust us! We're not like the others!" Sure gives me confidence in Massachusetts' oversight of weed all day long.

Steve Merrill

North Troy

'Lily Is a Vermonter'

[Re Feedback: "More Diversity, Please," April 14]: Since Seven Days writes about national tragedies "as they relate to our state and the people who live here," it seems odd that the editor's note in response to Lily Hammerling's letter dismisses her appeal for content digesting the social impacts of highly public hate crimes against BIPOC. Lily is a Vermonter. In listing the numerous recent contributions by BIPOC to the paper, the response fails to address Lily's feedback as both legitimate and reasonable.

Our community's healing and unity depend on our ability and willingness to share the burdens of inhumanity and join together to support one another. We can all benefit from the empathic exercise that begins with the idea: What's important to you is important to me.

I support Lily's suggestion of a recurring column dedicated to BIPOC community news and events. Dedicated space and sustained effort toward inclusivity are reasonable expectations of folks who both historically and presently have been denied them. Though defensiveness is a natural impulse, let's resist the urge and listen instead when BIPOC encourage us to do better by them.

Gina Cocchiaro

Jericho

One From Winooski

[Re Off Message: "Winooski Hires Yasamin Gordon as City's First Equity Director," April 20]: Just learning of this appointment, from Seven Days. I'd like to welcome Yasamin Gordon into the community and offer any assistance to the cause. I know I'm considered privileged, but if one could see past that concern, maybe we could be more open in our dialogue.

My grandfather came to this country after serving as a merchant marine on freighters, signing on to a ship from the Azores. Along with his brothers, he eventually entered the U.S. and settled in New Bedford, Mass. He and his brothers left for California, but he stopped in the Midwest to raise sheep. He eventually returned to New Bedford, married, and raised several boys and a daughter.

My father delivered bread and paid for his education to Providence College before going into the Army Air Corps. He attended boot camp in an all-Black camp. He applied for officer training school and completed it — once they realized he wasn't Black but a dark Portuguese boy. He eventually became a professor at Champlain College. That's where my privilege began. After paying my own way through high school, I entered the Marines, then used my GI Bill to attend my dad's college. I continued to Castleton, then rejoined the military as a Vermont guardsman. I also worked for the South Burlington Police Department. I supported restorative justice and numerous programs.

I now live at the top of the hill. I hope that's not a problem? 

Thomas Fraga

Winooski

Nothing 'Brave' About Racism

[Re Off Message: "UVM Professor's Viral Video Prompts Calls for His Resignation," March 16; Feedback: "Kindsvatter Is Brave," April 7]: There has been much conversation about a recent video by Dr. Aaron Kindsvatter, an associate professor in the UVM Counseling Program. This video objects to anti-racism programming within the department and the wider university. Some have described this way of thinking as brave and noble. As a mental health professional, I want to make clear the deeply problematic nature of ideas like those presented in the video.

There is absolutely nothing brave about powerful white people refusing to acknowledge racism. In fact, it is the height of cowardice to perpetuate privilege and ignore the effects of racism. It is tempting to believe that such thinking promotes free speech. What it actually promotes is the luxury of benefiting from racist policies despite their proven harm to racial minorities.

UVM, the Counseling Program and all professional mental health associations declare deep commitment to racial justice because racism, white supremacy and anti-Blackness have powerful, established impacts on mental health. Experts recognize that students must be trained as multiculturally competent professionals because it is impossible to be an ethical, effective therapist without accurately understanding racism. It is impossible to be an ethical, effective teacher of counseling students without fully unpacking racism.

Upholding academic standards doesn't threaten free speech. Requiring professors to engage in personal reflection and to properly educate students about the effects of oppressive systems on mental health is a basic job requirement.

Professionals in the field know that racism does not make for good counseling and that harmful rhetoric has no place in education.

Jennelle Alvin

Montpelier

Don't Call It BIPOC

I've recently noticed the use of the amalgam BIPOC in the state legislature and among the media to refer to Black, Indigenous and people of color. I urge you to refrain from using this term and to encourage your colleagues to do the same. When you use a term like BIPOC indiscriminately, you erase differences and minimalize each of these individual populations. The needs and experiences of these groups should be acknowledged, but they are very unique and different and should not be amalgamated as if they were all the same.

People want to be named and recognized, not labeled.

Bob Richard

Franklin

Richard is a tribal council member of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi.