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In These Times: Message from Hal Cohen, VAL’s Executive Director

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Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at 5:50 PM


I have been so troubled by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, the false accusations of Amy Cooper against an African American man bird watching in Central Park, the killing of the unarmed jogger Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of two white men alleging that they were making a “citizen’s arrest.”  Sadly, the list of unjust deaths of black men and also black women goes on and on.  

Earlier this week, Governor Phil Scott said, “I hear what you have to say and I know we not only need to continue to hear it, but also act. The fact is, hate, ignorance and the inequality we see is a far greater risk to the long term health of our nation than even COVID-19.  That’s why we cannot continue to treat racism, and examples like the one in Minneapolis, like an uncomfortable and rare event. Because it’s not an isolated incident and we need to acknowledge it’s systemic — it’s built into our social systems, our economic systems and everything in between”.  

Governor Scott’s words ring so true to me and I feel that we, at VAL, need to take these words to heart and act to do better.  Our organization will be revisiting our strategic plan to determine how we can further ensure that VAL is a welcoming place for all participants and staff – no matter their color or background.  

The challenges we face are an opportunity for change and it can be a real turning point for us and our nation.  As former President Obama wrote, “I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.”

I look forward to taking this journey with all of you.

Vermont Adult Learning

P.S.  If you want to read President Obama’s full remarks here’s the link: https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067 And, below is Governor Scott’s full statement, a really worthwhile read.

Statement by Governor Phil Scott:

I wanted to start my briefing today by addressing the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the reactions, and justifiable outrage it’s sparked across the nation.

I also want to remind everyone of the role each of us has to play in making our nation better, and truly equitable, for every American, regardless of their skin color, religion, sexuality, job, where they were born, or their political views.

Mr. Floyd’s death is a heartbreaking tragedy and a painful reminder that if you believe, as do I, that everyone is created equal in the eyes of God and according to the founding principles of our nation, we have much more work to do, to be a better country and better people.

My heart goes out to his family and the Minneapolis community, which is suffering deeply right now. Further, my heart goes out to all people of color across the nation, who, even if they live in different cities, carry this trauma every time something like this happens.

As you know, last week I joined the Vermont State Police to condemn the actions of the officers involved. Mr. Floyd’s death, under their watch, under an officer’s knee, is barbaric and totally inexcusable.

It’s my belief they should all be charged and tried for murder, and held fully accountable, both the three officers who used force, and the officer who stood by and allowed it to occur.

In the greatest country in the world, no one should stand for this, no one should make excuses for this, and no one should ignore this. We must ALL make clear: enough is enough.

And while we’re watching the response across the country, it’s important to reflect on a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” They simply don’t know what else to do.

For those who see the national protests and feel disdain, instead of sympathy, just know, the reactions we’re seeing in cities around the country are the result of decades — actually centuries — of calls for help that went unheard.

For many people today, every time something like this happens, it’s another reminder of how long communities of color have been waiting for equity, and how little things have changed.

© Vermont Adult Learning

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