This past week, Montpelier High School announced that it would fly a Black Lives Matter flag on campus for the month of February. The action comes from a unanimous affirmative vote from our school board and we have received a substantial amount of support through phone calls, e-mail, blog posts, and social media messages. As expected though, we have also been contacted by a number of people who disagree with this decision, and some have expressed that through hate and threats to me personally.
Prior to this week, I had never received a message of hate, my privilege saw to this. I am a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, Judeo-Christian man. I have a great deal of systemic power, given to me for reasons I have not earned, nor deserved. And yet, this week I was grappling with the reality of hate messages because of how I am choosing to support this student-led initiative. It was, and is, quite uncomfortable.
In a conversation with My Wife about this, I came to a stark realization. This hate is only temporary for me. When this is behind us and we move on to continuing the work of equity, proficiency, and personalization in Montpelier Public Schools in other ways, hate will not be directed at me.
For our Black students, this is the hate they deal with regularly. They face hate and racism for reasons they have not earned, nor deserved. Our Racial Justice Alliance told us of awful things that other students say about them, that go unaddressed, that are a part of their educational experience in Montpelier Public Schools.
I am proud to be uncomfortable to stand with our Black students. I am proud to be uncomfortable to build on the Vermont legacy of being at the forefront of civil rights. I am proud to be uncomfortable so that we can have the conversations about being a more inclusive community.