Press Release: For Immediate Release
A vendor at the NEACA Gun Show held in Rutland City, Vermont on August 13 and 14, 2022 at the Vermont State Fairgrounds was permitted to sell shackles with connections to, or made to appear connected to, the United States’ original sin of slavery.
The Rutland NAACP has encouraged the Fairgrounds, with a letter and a petition, to take immediate action to review and discuss their current policy with their vendors, to prevent similar occurrences at the Vermont State Fair hosted at their facilities this week. These regulations state that “We have a family fair policy that disallows weapons, illegal drug related items, obscene, vulgar, hateful or distasteful items from being offered for sale or put on display. Our Family Fair Policy also includes a zero tolerance for obscene, vulgar, hateful or distasteful actions from any concessionaire.”
While items like the ones shown may be considered antique collectibles, careful consideration must be taken when displaying tools and weapons used in the oppression, torture, and captivity of Black peoples. The importance of their historical preservation does not translate to such artifacts being treated as novelty items publicly displayed in harmful ways. Loosely displaying the items in question undermines their historical significance and perpetuates racial harm to Black community members and attendees.
It is important to learn about and recognize the horrors of the legacy of slavery, and so we must not perpetuate profiting from the relics. Instead, these should be properly kept in places where educating can occur. Appropriate museums and institutions poised to accurately educate are the only place where these historical objects belong.
One of the ways that racism continues to infiltrate our everyday life is by not being conscientious of history in a way that is productive. Though it is not against the law to sell these items, we also know that change starts from individuals and organizations that are willing to stop the harm. One of the ways that we can move forward as a nation, a state, and a city is to ensure that we are intentional about where the history of hate is displayed.
The Rutland Area NAACP had this conversation with the Vermont State Fairgrounds regarding the sale of confederate flags in 2018, including a petition that garnered over 6,000 signatures, but no action was taken. The selling of these deleterious artifacts connected to slavery, including the confederate flag, clearly falls within the Fairgrounds’ guideline regarding hateful items.
The Rutland Area NAACP shares with the Fairgrounds a common interest to ensure that Rutland and Vermont are safe and welcoming to all of its residents, and has offered assistance in clarifying the language in its policy. Other community organizations have made such policies, such as the Addison County Fair & Field Days, which banned sales of Confederate flag merchandise in 2016.