As nurses, healthcare professionals, faculty and higher education professionals in Vermont we are heartbroken and angry about the latest killing in Minnesota by the police of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Along with the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, it is a stark reminder that those who run this country and those who enforce their laws have no interest in systematically rooting out racism in this country.
Vermont’s population is 1.5% black, but of those testing positive for COVID-19, 3% are black. This disparity is the direct result of an economic system in which people of color are far more likely to work low-wage, essential jobs that put them at risk. When that heightened risk inevitably translates to illness and people of color seek care, they often face discrimination when seeking treatment resulting in poorer care and even no care at all. Racism is a public health crisis, and as health care providers, we must take swift action against the oppression of communities of color
Access to higher education is an economic, moral and racial justice issue. The state of Vermont funds its public institutions of higher education at one of the lowest rate of any state in the country. This disproportionately and negatively impacts Vermonters of color and working class students by not providing an affordable option. Also, one of our fundamental goals in higher education is to interrogate the structural racism present in our country and to challenge the racist narrative that results from that structural racism. We do this for our police officers, nurses, teachers, business leaders. Education is the most powerful tool to ending racism. The state of Vermont needs to adequately fund public higher education; we can and must do better.
We need to work together not only to end police violence and murder, but also we need to raise revenue from those who can afford it in order to eliminate the vast racial disparities in income, wealth, and access to healthcare and education.
As a Union, we are re-committing ourselves to doing the anti-racist work that all organizations must engage in. We are re-committing ourselves to fighting racism in our hospitals, clinics, colleges and universities. We are re-committing ourselves to stand with our Black brothers, sisters and siblings in our unions, our workplaces, and increase our efforts to win racial justice.
AFT Vermont Executive Board