As a student at the University of Vermont, I began to understand how deeply racism is woven into the fabric of predominantly white institutions. Once in a bathroom stall, I looked to my left and saw “keep UVM white” scribbled on the toilet paper dispenser. I could hear my father’s voice, “boy what you doing up there with all them white people?” It’s with this lens that I understand the importance of No-Names for Justice, the coalition of racial justice activists taking a stand against inequality and advocating for the physical, emotional, and educational well-being of UVM’s students of color.
For centuries, UVM, as well as the Burlington School District and the City of Burlington, have modeled, endorsed, and reproduced patriarchal, racist, and capitalist systems that restrict social progress. Today, public institutions across Vermont fly the Black Lives Matter flag; still, Burlington’s leaders and educators do not reflect the diversity our community has to offer, and they continue to construct learning environments that breed inequality.
The UVM administration must listen to its students’ voices and work in partnership with the Burlington School District and the City of Burlington to invest in the future of all of its residents. A comprehensive plan to carry out No-Names for Justice’s demands, across these three major institutions, is a powerful way to start. To me, these demands represent a commitment to using public schools and resources as a means for transforming the structural inequities within our reach, relationship between students and educational institutions, and participatory democracy.