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Vermont Guardian

For The Independent Mind

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Behind silent walls

Posted April 19, 2007

The Vermont Guardian is launching an important series examining domestic violence in Vermont, an issue that often only receives attention when tragedy strikes.

Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, perhaps we can avoid the next tragedy by putting in place better systems to catch and track domestic violence before it erupts.

Domestic violence affects thousands of people in Vermont. Consider these statistics:

• In 2006, 8,692 survivors of domestic violence reached out for services.
• In 2006, 9,119 children in Vermont were estimated to have been exposed to domestic violence. That’s 7 percent of all children who live in Vermont.
• From1994 -2006, 49 percent of all Vermont homicides were related to domestic violence. When incorporating suicides prompted by domestic violence, the percentage increases to 61 percent.
• Nationally, more than one out of every three women killed is at the hand of a husband or boyfriend.

Our series will ask the tough questions about what is working and not working in the courts, corrections, and community service providers, and what we’re doing in schools and our homes to help foster more awareness among children. As a society, we need to face this problem head on, rather than letting it hide behind silent walls.

What we talk about when we talk about race

By now, just about everybody in the country knows that Don Imus — one of the original radio “shock jocks” — was fired over inappropriate remarks he made about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

The tempest allowed everyone to become indignant about the racism and misogyny in our society and culture — from popular radio programs to popular rap stars.

Imus should have been fired a long time ago for the sheer fact that he was boring, unimaginative, and boorish. Making offensive remarks isn’t a crime in our country thanks to the First Amendment. In this case, however, the power of the marketplace won out. CBS Radio, facing a wave of national criticism and the loss of sponsors, sent him packing.

Issues of race are often couched in tones of remorse, regret, lessons to be learned But, when we’re faced with owning up to one of the greatest crimes in history — the outright genocide of Native Americans, or the enslavement of African Americans — we shrug it off and simply say, “Well, we’ve put that behind us.”

Have we?

Some states have taken it upon themselves to make formal apologies for slavery. Virginia and Maryland have already issued such apologies, and Delaware is contemplating one. Another measure is currently moving through the North Carolina state Senate.

This week, however, we in Vermont will have a rare opportunity to see that more than 100 years of institutional racism — from slavery to Jim Crow to slight-of-hand segregation today — has wrought on this country.

William Darity, one of the nation’s foremost economists doing research on racial inequality, will be in residence this week at the University of Vermont, and his primary lecture will make the economic argument for slavery reparations, which he believes are long overdue.

As a result of slavery, and Jim Crow-era laws, African Americans could be owed more than $10 trillion if you take into account wages they could have earned as free citizens, land holdings that were taken, and wealth that did not accumulate and pass along to their heirs.

And, the shadow of slavery still is at work today with African Americans treated differently in the criminal justice system, public education, and the workplace.

A reparations program will be hard for many to come to terms with, but we did provide compensation for the Japanese and other Asian Americans we interred during World War II.

A lump sum payment isn’t needed, but asset-building programs, business and education loan programs, and perhaps some monthly cash payments like the Germans did to Jewish survivors, is just what might help to stop the past from affecting the future.

This may be a tall order, but firing a radio shock jock for doing what he is paid to do — shock — isn’t going to put this country’s house in order.