vermont lawmaker resigns because…racism

October 16, 2018
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Kiah Morris is the first Black woman to ever serve on Vermont’s legislature but racists in the predominantly white state are working to ensure that she remains the only one to do so. The legislator resigned from her post in September due to repeated harassment, “including acts of intimidation at her home that forced her and her husband, who was recovering from heart surgery, to flee to a different town,” according to Women In the World.

Morris was elected in 2014 and won re-election in 2016, but will not be seeking re-election this year, despite running unopposed. Since taking office, Morris has been the victim of several acts of serious harassment, such as death threats (witnessed by her son), racial slurs and vandalism, and a home invasion that took place while her family was in the house.


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Friends, Today, I officially announce my formal resignation from my position as the Vermont State Representative serving the district of Bennington 2-2. When I recently announced my withdrawal from re-election, it was my intention to continue service until completion of the current term which ends in January of 2019. However, this time has proven to be one of significant challenge for my family. My husband is beginning the long physical journey of recovery following extensive open-heart surgery. We face continued harassment and seek legal remedies to the harm endured. I step away now to focus on caring for and supporting my family during this time of transition and ensure our health, safety and well-being are prioritized. I want to thank the many individuals and organizations who continue to stand in solidarity with us, speak out, organize, donate and more as we press on the journey ahead. TEAM KIAH is all of us. Thank you.

A post shared by Kiah Morris (@kmrhapsody) on Sep 25, 2018 at 4:13pm PDT

“There’s obviously online harassment that can happen, and that’s a part of our social media world right now, but then when things started happening in everyday life, that’s when it becomes really worrisome and terrifying,” Morris told The Associated Press. “That’s the worst part about this. I realized, in seeing what’s happened over the last few years … seeing that our system is not set up in a way to protect someone like me, I cannot be the legislator that I want to be. I cannot speak my truths in a way that need to have been said. I cannot do these things and be secure, be assured of safety for me and my family.”

Morris declaring her intent to leave office has not stopped “angry youths” — read: violent white boys — from pounding on her windows and doors at night, forcing her and her husband, who had just undergone heart surgery, to flee from their home in Bennington and move to another town.

Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery and recognize same-sex civil unions, but the state is still strikingly non-diverse with 94.4% of its population being white people. A majority of that size isn’t shocking considering Vermont sits right up against “The Great White North” (ha!) but it does mean that lawmakers like Morris were crucial for minority representation. There has been little to no police intervention on the matter, adding Morris to a list of activists, citizens and even school children that fall between the cracks of law enforcement’s inability to navigate around harassment misconstrued as “protected speech.”

“Are our law enforcement actually equipped, capable, and knowledgeable enough to really deal with these kinds of complex cases that on their face may seem like a simple act of vandalism, but have so much more happening underneath? They don’t have those capabilities,” she continued. “When it comes to our state’s attorney and they see all this evidence and they say, ‘I can’t move forward with charges because the statute’s not strong enough,’ that’s a systemic failure that has to be addressed or otherwise everyone is left vulnerable.”