Statement from Gus on Our American Tragedy and Board Resolution on Diversity and Inclusion

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Vermonters:
 
The national trauma that is the murder of George Floyd at the knee of a police “training” officer has horrified us. In the weeks preceding this awful event we saw the murders of Ahmaud Arbury and Breonna Taylor. What is more troubling are the many, many incidents of racism that American society and culture has for generations too easily accepted, either without notice or without sufficient outrage to demand and result in change. What is now called America’s institutional racism is revealed as we see the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus and related economic fall-out on communities of color.
 

America’s modern civil rights movement took on urgency when Emmett Till’s mother provided an open casket for the world to see the brutality that a lynching had on her son. Today, as in 1955, we must confront what can only be viewed as acts that shock our collective conscience and define what evil looks like.

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is established both to promote access to housing and land. Our work and that of our community partners helps to mitigate and overcome some of the inequalities that are the byproduct of an economy and culture that leaves too many behind. 

At this very difficult moment as a white-led organization we must listen first and with humility, we need to encourage open hearts, and support those whose anger and rage comes from  justice deferred and denied for too long.

Dr. King in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail said,

"Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

Today our body politic is polluted by leaders who, like the segregationists of the past, sow division, and seek to demonize those who are in the streets demanding justice. They are aided by tech giants who have monetized and profit from the divisiveness their platforms encourage.

Now is a moment to push ahead for lasting change. Now is the time for all of us, and especially those who have enjoyed the benefits of white privilege, to overcome ancient fears and hatred. Now is a time for us to act in Vermont’s spirit of Freedom and Unity.

We are committed to acting in that spirit.

Sincerely,
 
Gus Seelig
Executive Director
 


At a meeting on June 8, 2020, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board adopted the following resolution: 

VHCB Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

Whereas; The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board has at the core of its mission to promote access to land and housing in an equitable way, and

Whereas; Access to land and housing has been a tool to separate and denigrate persons of color who therefore are more likely to be economically disadvantaged throughout American society, and

Whereas; The combination of a pandemic and recent incidents of police violence have underscored the realities of systemic racism and its disproportionate and deadly impact on communities of color, and

Whereas; Governor Phil Scott and his administration have called upon Vermonters “to reflect on what role each of us can play to end hate, racism and bigotry”, and

Whereas; The Board’s Executive Director has issued the statement [above] on the impact of these overlapping crises and the need for action at all levels of society and government;

Now therefore, be it resolved that the members of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board endorse the Executive Director’s statement and commit ourselves and our staff to undertaking our mission with community partners in a manner that fights racial injustice, promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and reconciliation as we and partners pursue and implement our mission.