Forum, Nov. 21: Whites Avoiding the Truth

Monday, November 20, 2017
Whites Avoiding the Truth

In response to “Comments Prompting Backlash” in the Nov. 12 Sunday Valley News: Olivia LaPierre spoke the truth, and for us white people the truth can be difficult to swallow. Perhaps some members of the committee aren’t yet ready to hear and understand this truth.

Many white people can’t talk comfortably about racism, partly because we are miseducated, having been fed lies and nuanced stories about our racial and cultural heritage throughout our lives. Unfortunately, our ignorance or our unwillingness to listen often evokes “white fragility,” shutting down conversation and evoking denial of racism or having “hurt feelings” as a defense. The exchange during the Hartford Committee on Racial Inequality’s Oct. 17 meeting is a classic example of white fragility shutting down what could have been a productive, albeit difficult, conversation.

Those of us who identify as white need to come to grips with the reality that there is a spectrum of racism along which we all fall, being born and living in a society that is institutionally and structurally designed to perpetuate racial inequity.

There are many excellent books and articles that are important to changing and expanding our understanding of institutional and structural racism in America. Would the truth be more acceptable coming from white people? Then I urge the committee members and other community members to start by reading contemporary white authors such as Debby Irving, Tim Wise and Robin DiAngelo, who coined the term white fragility to describe “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”

If there is to be real progress in changing the institutional and structural racism in our society, we white people first need to accept that our legacy of racism shapes our daily lives and actions. Let us move beyond our discomfort and defensiveness to educate ourselves about the truths of our history and culture and about racism in its current manifestation, to have the difficult conversations with white people and with people of color, and then to engage in challenging racism in our own lives.

Carol Rougvie

West Lebanon

Stifling of Discourse

When I visualize the two most recent meetings of Hartford’s Committee on Racial Inequality as described by reporter Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, I see a picture reminiscent of the iconic photos and paintings of the civil rights era of the ’50s and ’60s, absent the dogs and National Guard. I imagine a bunch of white people, mostly men, hunched together, towering menacingly over a lone black woman.

Hongoltz-Hetling tells an all-too-familiar story of what happens when white power and control are threatened and how swiftly the “iron heel” comes down to suppress any challenge to the status quo. All expressions of racism are found — explicit, implicit and complicit. If we didn’t know what implicit bias meant before, we now know, at least, that explicit bias surely follows an accusation of implicit bias like night follows day.

The result, in Hartford’s case, is the stifling of any meaningful discourse, difficult as it may be, about creating a safe, fair and inclusive community for people of color in the Upper Valley.

I am terrified for the physical safety and well-being of Ms. LaPierre and her family. I grieve the loss of her leadership and wisdom. I am saddened by the lost opportunity to structure a more healthy and diverse community in which all of our children and grandchildren can thrive.

Margery Phillips


Random Words, or the President?

Question: What did our president publicly say in the past year, and what words were suggested by choosing words at random from an iPhone autotext generator? (Answers below.)

A.) Health care is not enough for us a little while to get to work tomorrow at least a little early tomorrow and we will get whatever works best and we will do it next.

B.) Well, I’d have to let you know. I have to see where we are with this. Let’s see. Maybe it doesn’t work, but I think it’s going to. And, you know, it is.

C.) And we will free, and we will sacrifice, and we will hope, and we will make things beautiful, especially the aspirations of your people.

D.) The nuclear weapons were quite good with question of course but we also need some more people who can be there for sure but that’s fine.


A + D — from my iPhone, Nov. 14.

B — President Donald Trump interview with the Wall Street Journal, July 25.

C — President Trump’s speech in South Korea, Nov. 7.

(Idea for this quiz courtesy of Last Week Tonight, airdate Nov. 12.)

Nirav Kapadia


Quail Hollow Expansion Concerns

I live in West Lebanon at Quail Hollow, and have concerns about the announced plans for expansion. A Nov. 15 Valley News article headlined “Lebanon’s Quail Hollow to Expand” implied a done deal. I hope not! The density here is problematic as it is, and I can’t fathom another building with 40 more units. The developers say it will fit on the back parking area which is gravel and will not need much site work. I think not.

Take a drive through the complex. Coming down the hill feels like entering a ceramic Christmas village. The graphics and site plans, offered by the developer, don’t show a true picture of how it is, or would be. The proposed building would be very close to the neighboring one, and eliminate a lot of parking. Yes, there are 40 parking units shown under the building, but most residents can’t afford the additional $65 charge to use one.

I have been told that the proposed building would not have subsidized units. Affordable or subsidized housing  is a huge need for seniors. The “services” at Quail don’t make “aging in place” any easier, as all services are optional and have additional costs. I trust that the city of Lebanon is cognizant of citizens’ needs as well as the developer’s and will take our concerns to heart.

Sally Page

West Lebanon