BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — “Reading to end racism”—that’s what young children did with Vermont Lt. Governor Molly Gray as a way to talk about diversity and discrimination in the past and present.
“Thurgood Marshall said equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place,” Gray read aloud. “And I think that still rings true today, when—Think about systemic racism as it may exist in access to housing or employment or healthcare.”
RER is a nation-wide effort designed to discuss racism in an age-appropriate manner. In Vermont, schools, throughout the year, will bring in volunteers to read to the classroom. On Monday, students learned about the first black Supreme Court Justice.
“Knowing that it’s Black History Month, and knowing that Thurgood Marshall added so much to our history and changed our history through his work. It’s important for our students to find out that they too have the power to change things if they focus and work on an area of opportunity,” said Flynn Elementary School Principal Lashawn Whitmore-Sells.
Lt. Governor Molly Gray discussed Thurgood Marshall’s legacy, using the law to correct America’s racial injustice, especially in schools. Having graduated from Vermont Law School and become a lawyer herself, Gray says Thurgood’s work is incredibly inspiring.
“‘Listening to his powerful argument, seeing the injustice he described, every single one of those nine Supreme Court Justices agreed. Thurgood had won,” read Gray.
Afterward, students shared their thoughts and questions. They made comparisons to Martin Luther King Jr. and his activism. Others asked if there were discrepancies in education between black and white students. Another student wanted to know if black students could only have black teachers.
“Through restorative justice, through these conversations and processes, we are better able to have these conversations and have conversations where BIPOC students and staff are, I think, better able to be heard,” said fifth grade teacher Keith Brown.
Gray says she plans to continue this work by hosting what’s called, “Lt. Governor for a Day,” where students can go to the Statehouse understand how Vermont government works. The program will launch next week and will be virtual for the duration of the pandemic.
Gray also hosts “Seat at the Table” for underrepresented voices. The second meeting will be Monday, February 22.
“I just want to thank the principals, teachers and educators for engaging students in tough topics. It was such an honor to come in and connect with kids today. and I really look forward to keeping an open door to our educators at a time where they need to know government is accessible, that participation is possible, and can represent all of us,” said Gray.