BENNINGTON, Vt. — Voters in this very liberal, very white state made Kiah Morris a pioneer when in 2014 they elected her as its first black female legislator. Not long after, another Vermont surfaced: racist threats that eventually forced her to leave office in fear and frustration.
After she won the Democratic primary for re-election to the state legislature in 2016, someone tweeted a cartoon caricature of a black person at her, along with a vulgar phrase rendered in ebonics. The tweeter threatened to come to rallies and stalk her, Morris said. She won a protective order against him.
But harassment continued from many corners, escalating into a break-in while the family was home, vandalism and death threats seen by her young son. Even after she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election, despite running unopposed, a group of youths pounded on her windows and doors at night, forcing her and her husband, convalescing after heart surgery, to leave town.
Finally, she resigned.
“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,” she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Amid the racial and ideological polarization consuming the country, the Morris case highlights the dangers politicians of colour face. And it reinforces that even liberal bubbles like Vermont shouldn’t get too confident or comfortable in their cloaks of inclusivity.
No one should have to endure what Morris did, said Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, a white Democrat.
“This is deep racism coming out, and there are Vermonters hunting down other Vermonters here. This is awful for our state,” she said. “Rather than shake our heads and say, ‘Oh, what a shame,’ we all need to buckle down and figure out what …read more
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