Podcast Brainstorm: What is Wrong with Vermont?

In thinking about podcasts and the quest to create my own, a few ideas have popped into my mind. The hardest part for me has been deciding the topic or theme that I want to pursue. This post serves mainly as an elaboration of a few talking points that I have been ruminating on. I have been talking to a few people and some riveting ideas have sparked my interested in the form of issues with the state of Vermont and particularly why people want to leave it.

This idea was in the back of my mind for a long time, mainly because I myself am from Vermont and my only goal after graduating is to get the heck out of here. But why? Well for myself, I always just assumed it was because of my own wanderlust. It’s normal for people to want to leave their home and while most people get the chance through moving to college or through getting a job, my opportunity will be through graduate school. Yet it still seemed nearly universal for people who grew up in Vermont to desperately want to leave and most use some claim that there was not enough opportunity here and they wanted to start a serious career in a more opportunistic place. However, is that the only reason?

Recently, I had a fascinating perspective shift when a classmate mentioned to me that one of the reasons they wanted to leave Vermont was because the people here were so white. They said that they would notice that the people, especially those who grew up in Vermont, just didn’t have the cultural knowledge they needed in order to really understand diversity. This resulted this person’s friends committing microaggressions against them without even realizing it because they lacked the cultural experience to even recognize what they were saying was offensive. Similarly, I talked to a friend who lived in Vermont all of his life and he recently moved out to Los Angeles and he was shocked by how little he understood about other cultures and races before going out there.

He did however bring up an even more fascinating idea, that perhaps he and everyone else who would be concerned about understanding diversity and cultural experience will want to leave Vermont because it has such a homogeneous population. This means that the people who stay either don’t care about the lack of diversity or have such a limited perspective on it that they may not even notice or think it actually is diverse. I talked to another friend who did a project on whiteness in Vermont and whiteness at UVM and she found that, at least for UVM, students who lived in predominantly white areas deemed UVM to be very diverse but those who grew up in more diverse areas actually claimed that UVM is not diverse at all. Even more interesting is in this same project she found that international students, some of the very people who help to increase UVM’s diversity reportings (a claim they are quite proud of), actually feel isolated by the sheer whiteness here. Further more, they feel the lack of acceptance at UVM disheartening as they perceive the culture here as set and inflexible, meaning they either conform or stick out like a sore thumb. Even though UVM claims it is so diverse, what does this diversity mean if the minorities that come here are not appreciated and their cultures washed out?

Is it possible, given Vermont’s extremely whitewashed population and its self-proclaimed “wokeness” potentially caused by a lack of perspective, that anyone not white will want to leave Vermont and this furthers the lack of diversity and fuels the lack of cultural perspective for the state? There was even an SNL skit making fun of how white Vermont was, claiming it to be a white supremacy paradise for Neo-Confederates where “the leaves change color but the people never do.” Is it possible that Vermont is pushing away the very people it hopes to attract, inadvertently perpetuating its whiteness by isolating the minorities here and making even more people want to leave? Could it be that everyone in Vermont feels isolated, perhaps for even larger reasons such as low population density and minorities just feel the most singled out? I think these are really interesting, potentially personal questions to base a podcast around and the implications could run very deep.

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thank you friend

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