Take up H.478; Establish a Reparations Task Force

House Government Operations

Regarding H.478

Mark Hughes
Racial Justice Alliance Coordinator
Justice For All Executive Director

Open Letter

March 5, 2019

Madam Chair,

Please take up H.478.  This bill will establish a task force that will study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, and make recommendations to the General Assembly on appropriate remedies.  As Vermont continues to make historic achievements we must take this next step to continue advancing racial justice and addressing racial equity.

Act 54 (2017) charged the Attorney General (AGO), together with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and interested stakeholders, with “developing a strategy to address racial disparities within the state systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and healthcare and economic development.” Taking on the challenge, the task force concluded that addressing such a long-standing and “complicated problem is incredibly challenging but doing nothing is not an option” In 2018 3 V.S.A. Chapter 68 (Act 9) created an Executive Director of Racial Equity “to identify and work to eradicate systemic racism within State government” and the Racial Equity Panel.  The Panel is currently seated and the Racial Equity Director is expected to be in place as early as April 2019.

Recently a proposal was introduced to amend the Vermont constitution. This proposal would amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont to eliminate reference to slavery. The proposal states “Eliminating reference to slavery in the Vermont Constitution will serve as a foundation for addressing systemic racism in our State’s laws and institutions.”  The Act 54 Task Force Report concludes, “Everyone who has grown up in this country is a beneficiary of a White Supremacy culture…” We are on a path to reversing this but it will require difficult decisions.  The opportunity has been set before us to lead once again as a state.  Please take up H.478.

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