The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
On October 19, 2010, our fearless leader Eugene Volokh posted a piece entitled "When I Hear 'Pure Vermont,' Racial Purity Is the First Thing that Comes to Mind."
In it, he brought attention to an utterly silly statement made by Curtis Reed Jr., the Chair of the Vermont State Advisory Committee On Civil Rights. Reed was upset with the Brian Dubie for Governor "Pure Vermont" advertising campaign and argued the slogan would have sinister connotations to many voters:
[F]or many Vermonters, these words denote racial, religious and cultural oppression. They imply that Vermont is a place reserved for white Christians….
Vermont's population is becoming increasingly diverse. Over the past decade, nearly 95 percent of the state's new residents were racial and ethnic minorities. The "pure" brand perpetuates the "native" verses "flatlander" divisive wedge for the 60 percent of us who were born someplace other than this great state. Tens of thousands of Vermonters today come from non-Christian religious traditions whose recent histories recount public humiliation, persecution and genocide under the rule of oppressive regimes.
Dubie's brand resurrects the horror of the Eugenics Survey and the 1931 passage of An Act for Human Betterment by Voluntary Sterilization. This measure codified the practice of racism, harassment, and the sterilization of the Abenaki people. "Pure Vermont" raises the specter of Hilter's Aryan Nation and the Khmer Rouge where the purifying agent was genocide.
And the slogan is a bitter reminder of the bigotry and racial segregation experienced by blacks under slavery and Jim Crow. The precipitous drop of Vermont's black population in the early 20th century was no doubt partially due to the Klan's efforts to keep Vermont pure….
The brand [also] turns a deaf ear to the sensitivities of students of color and LGBT students….
The "Pure Vermont" brand is pure invalidation of the fastest growing segment of our population. And the brand's handlers have been dishing out a healthy dose of avoidant behavior or, optimistically, benign neglect. The inherent challenges and opportunities of a more multicultural Vermont should not be ignored or buried in the polite discourse of denial. Failure to authentically affirm our presence today will prove, in years to come, to be the Achilles heel of Vermont's economic recovery, prosperity, and a sense of community free of prejudice and discrimination of all kinds.
"Pure Vermont" does nothing to bring Vermonters together. Vermont deserves inclusive, decisive, self-aware leadership with the 21st century skills to negotiate the oncoming changes within and beyond our borders.
Eugene wrote at the time:
"That's right — "'Pure Vermont' raises the specter of Hitler's Aryan Nation and the Khmer Rouge where the purifying agent was genocide." Unintentional self-parody at its finest.
Here's the rest of the story: At its monthly meeting held this morning (by telephone), the Commission voted to bring back Curtis Reed as Chair of the Vermont State Advisory Committee for an additional term. The vote was 6-2 with Peter Kirsanow and me in dissent. Everyone on the Commission knew about Reed's statement. Indeed, I read large portions of it into the record. They wanted him anyway. They apparently want State Advisory Committee members who are prone to make over-the-top statements of this kind.