On June 3, 2020

Alternative interpretation of harassment

Dear editor,

In reading the article entitled “Police investigate harassment of black family with out-of-state plate in Hartford”, which appeared in the May 20-26 issue, I had an alternative interpretation of the motivation.  The car was pulled over and the driver “advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave” and this was interpreted as a “hate/bias-motivated incident”. The early part of the article mentions that the victim was black, the perpetrator white, and that the victim “was in fear for (his) physical safety”; the implication is that the stop was motivated by racism. However, as perhaps suggested by the latter part of the article (page 9 rather than page 5), the incident was more likely motivated by fear rather than hate. The out-of-state plates on the car were far more obvious than the color of its occupants’ skin. And, based on the reporting, it appears that the encounter was civil, with no threats or name-calling.

The state, indeed the governor, have let it be known that out-of-staters are not wanted in Vermont — at least for the time being. Those of us with second homes in Vermont are not encouraged to visit. If we do visit, signs at the state border tell us to self-quarantine for 14 days. News articles indicate that the state is monitoring license plates of cars entering the state to determine whether travel bans are effective; supposedly this is just state registration not license plate numbers but, without historical data, it is unclear how new data will have any value — which might lead one to believe that license plates numbers are being recorded. In mid April, our condo manager informed us that “Both the state and local police have been to our property several times, checking on the status of renters. They are making note of license plate numbers and will be tracking these individuals.”

I feel visible by the very fact of our out-of-state plates. We’d like to help the local economy but it is unclear whether picking up groceries or take-out food is “allowed” as part of self-quarantine. And, although outdoor activities are encouraged for in-staters, they are discouraged for out-of-staters; if we park at a trailhead, will we be tracked by the police? So, in the reported incident, the perpetrators merely expressed the message that the state is sending — i.e., out-of-staters are not wanted in Vermont.

These are strange times. Covid-19 has changed us all. Neighbors who were previously strangers might now wave, but don’t get too close and don’t speak (or even exhale) unless you are wearing a mask. Hugging is out, so how can Vermont possibly embrace out-of-staters? The state may not fare well if we are allowed in, but it will definitely not fare well if we don’t visit. Strange times indeed.

Cindy Berman

Massachusetts resident and Killington second home owner

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