An Open Letter to Vermont’s People of Color:

Hello family. These are some scary times and we are sure you are all doing what you can to make it through. To our Asian family, we want to extend a particularly warm and empathetic greeting. We are painfully aware of the rise in anti-Asian racism both in Vermont and around the nation. We want you to know that we see you, we see what is happening and we will do what we can to amplify your voices, experiences, and expertise in how to address the hate. We love you and will protect you as we can. On the topic of protection, we would like to encourage all of our brethren, but especially our more melanated family to take one particular action when you interact with medical professionals.

Disclose your race to the medical professionals you encounter in the process of seeking help.

We know. It may go against what we may have done to protect ourselves in the past, but those were healthier times. We know that our collective experiences with Western medicine in the United States is and always has been fraught with structural racism and terror. From the Tuskegee experiments to Henrietta Lacks, and even now with the national and international focus on and suggestion to test COVID 19 treatment on African people and in majority-Black and brown cities in the U.S., we cannot escape the ugly truth about racism in our medical system.

We knew before this pandemic that our​ ​symptoms are less likely to be taken seriously, we are less likely to receive adequate relief​, and​ ​healthcare in the areas where we tend to live is often lacking or subpar​. We understand all of those things. We also understand that emerging data in states where they are collecting information about race and COVID 19—everything from who is tested to who gets infected, to who dies and who recovers—indicates that we are getting infected more often, we are dying from it faster and we are dying more often than white people. Black and Hispanic folks are the two races of people with the most disparate outcomes, and the​ ​sharp rise in anti-Asian hate​ has threatened the lives of people in the U.S​. as well.

We already know about social distancing and handwashing, but we must be actively engaged and provide data proactively in order to get a better sense of what is happening to people of color in

Vermont. Data drives decision making. It drives funding. It drives knowledge and dispels myths. It lets us know if interventions and treatment plans are working. Likewise, we recognize that we are not one-dimensional beings. Revealing other aspects of our identities may also shed light on how marginalization is showing up and playing a role both in how we experience COVID 19 and how the system responds to us.

So, we write to you today to ask you to stretch beyond what may be your comfort zone. Yes, medical professionals should be asking you about your race/races. But we also know that sometimes they don’t for a variety of reasons. Let’s make it easier for them and give ourselves a leg up. If you seek medical support because you suspect you may have COVID 19, tell your medical professional your race when you complete all of the other demographic information. Ask them to document it in your chart if they don’t look like they plan to. Explain to them why it is important.

If we all work on this together—medical providers, justice advocates and the general public, we have a chance to gather data that can be used to help us. It’s kind of like completing the 2020 Census (which, if you haven’t yet, do it now​​).

And white people (because I know you’re reading this, too), please do the same. You disclosing your race also helps de-normalize white as default. This makes us all more conscious about the ways whiteness is held as the standard rather than one of many.

Thank you, fam. Sending you love and health.

With gratitude and hope,

Tabitha Moore & Steffen Gillom
Presidents of the Vermont Branches of the NAACP

4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Vermont’s People of Color:

  1. Good evening Tabitha and Steffen,

    I hope this email finds you well, particularly given this unparalleled situation during our time on the planet.

    This is awesome and well stated!
    I am sharing it with Jacqui. She may share it with the Health staff.

    Thank you for sharing!

    All the best,
    Jane

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HI Tabitha and Steffen

    I hope you and your love ones are well during this challenging time.

    Did you and Steffen received any responses to the open letter or other outcomes?
    I know you are focused on your family at this time.

    Depending on your current circumstances, please let me know if you or Steffen are available to present about this letter and responses on the NAACP EMTF call tonight or the coming Friday night.

    Thanks,
    Jane

    ________________________________

    Like

  3. Thank you so much, Jane. Exciting work!! I’m looping in Francesca from the Health team who I’m sure will be interested, as you say!!

    Jacqui Patterson (she/her)
    Sr. Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program
    NAACP
    4805 Mt. Hope Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21215
    443-465-9809
    jpatterson@naacpnet.org
    @jacquipatt
    http://www.naacp.org/programs/entry/climate-justice
    PThink GREEN! Please consider the environment before printing.

    “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” – Chinua Achebe

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi

    “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Che Guevara

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  4. Thanks for all your hard work. I am hearing good things about the NAACP in Vermont.

    I am a low-income person (that’s code for “poor” or “living in poverty), and have been most of my life. I’m specifically responding to your comment about “Western” medicine. I understand what prompted the comment… I’ve read about the horrific Tuskeegee tortures and what was done to Henrietta Lacks. Don’t forget forced sterilization of thousands of indigenous women in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Medicine is medicine. If it’s proven to work, then it’s medicine, no matter where a practice originates. I’ve never had a free clinic or Planned Parenthood turn me away. On the other hand, free clinics and clinics that take Medicaid are often limited in their funding, and Medicaid doesn’t cover everything… like orthopedic shoes (only for people with diabetes) or some dental procedures to prevent tooth loss. I have had many “alternative” or “holistic” practitioners turn me away because I didn’t have enough money to pay for their services.

    I dig that people have bills to pay, but I haven’t seen many of these non-“Western” “healers” do any volunteer or “free” work. Every last one I’ve ever encountered comes from a privileged background, and most have turned me away. I’m not saying that all do, but that’s mostly been my experience.

    Also, the rate of infection from COVID-19 in indigenous communities is horrific. Tribal communities were underfunded with disaster relief because the Treasury Department used data from the Census that undercounted tribal memberships.

    Anyhow… keep up the good work!

    Like

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