In the Hans Christian Andersen tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor, and then his courtiers, were fooled by swindlers who claimed they could weave clothes for his majesty that only the best people could see. It was a clear-eyed peasant boy who finally told the truth: the emperor’s wonderful clothes were a figment of his and his courtiers’ imaginations.
In recent years, Vermont’s cultured class has been telling a similar folk tale about Vermonters. The elites, terrified of being called bigots themselves, and contemptuous of most Vermonters, claim to see imaginary racism in their fellow citizens. The tale is nothing more than a projection by the upper crust of their own endemic intolerance. It wasn’t Vermont farmers or laborers or other working folks who invented the blackball to keep the riffraff (read: blacks, females and Jews) out of their exclusive clubs, or who tried to keep a socialist Jew from New York from winning elections. Yet now, our betters imagine that regular folks are racist.
This noxious premise not only soothingly reinforces elites’ view of themselves and their “inferiors,” but it has also become lucrative: spending taxpayer money to slander those who are paying the bill. Vermont’s newest expensive employee is the executive director of Racial Equity. She will conduct a “review” of “systemic racism” in Vermont state government, which will undoubtedly confirm the preordained conclusion of those who created this position that racist and bigoted Vermonters are everywhere. Of course, very few of us have ever seen any of these scurrilous folk, but if this new executive director fails to find a good enough number who qualify, she will be out of a job. The executive director’s review will also, no doubt, furnish preordained solutions to this imaginary problem: shaming and re-training — all at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, there are real, not imaginary, crises in Vermont, all of which disproportionately hurt poor and minority communities: the catastrophic opioid epidemic that is killing our kids and devastating our families, the depopulation of our state caused by burdensome taxes and oppressive regulations, and Vermont’s lowered bond rating because of our excessive pension liabilities. Tackling these problems will take hard, patient work. Vermont elites will have none of it. It is easier for them and less threatening to their positions to tackle imaginary problems like racist Vermonters.
It is time for Vermonters to stand up and say, enough. Vermonters need to elect people who will tackle real problems facing our state, and not swindle us into paying for imaginary ones.
Deborah T. Bucknam is an attorney in St. Johnsbury. She was the former Republican candidate for Attorney General.