BENNINGTON >> From a local selectman to the governor of Vermont, officials are denouncing a Bennington man's tweet directed at state Rep. Kiah Morris as "racist" and "pure hate in plain sight."
Max Misch posted on Twitter last week a cartoon caricature of a black person, with the caption, "S---, I be representin dem white m---f--- of Bennington, gnome sayin?" The Banner dashed certain of Misch's words for publication.
The tweet was in response to the news that Morris, who is black, had won the Democratic primary in her bid for re-election as the Bennington-2-2 representative. The message was tweeted at Morris.
Morris posted a screenshot of the image to her Facebook page on Tuesday and wrote, "Haven't been on my Twitter in a few days, thought I would share this." As of Wednesday afternoon, her post had more than 85 comments, universally in support of Morris.
It drew the attention of several political figures who roundly castigated Misch. They posted their comments in replies to Morris' Facebook post.
"He's not just ignorant, he is a racist pig," said state Rep. Rae Fields, D-Bennington-2-1, who recently won her primary for re-election.
"This, Kiah, is the lowest of the low ... pure hate in plain sight," said Bennington Selectman Michael Keane. "It is time to make this matter extremely public and subject the person(s) doing this to you, Kiah, to chastisement. The only way to pull out the roots of ugliness and racism are to acknowledge and identify them. You can't heal a sickness with a band-aid."
"This is abhorrent," said Speaker of the Vermont House Shap Smith, D-Lamoille-Washington. Smith was recently defeated in the Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor. "Thankfully, the majority of the people in your district know how incredible you are."
Morris also received supportive comments.
"Sending you so much love," wrote state Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Chittenden-3-4, who also ran in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. "It was an honor to knock on doors with you last weekend because I could see firsthand that you're blazing trails so that Jamal can grow up in a different Bennington and more compassionate Vermont. Take the time you need, feel the love, and then use this to propel you forward knowing you are making a difference and changing the conversation."
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin responded to the issue in a statement, saying, "There is no place for racism or racist vitriol in Vermont or anywhere else. This communication is an affront to Kiah and her family, to her neighbors and community, and to all Vermonters who care for one another and have no place in their hearts for hate. I know Vermonters join me in condemning hatred, bigotry, and intimidation."
Deb Markowitz, a Democrat and secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, tweeted at Misch on Wednesday, "Shame on you! Your racism has no place in Vermont!"
Misch replied to Markowitz, "That's easy to say when VT is 96% white. Visit the South Bronx for 'cultural enrichment.'"
Most of Misch's posts on Twitter are in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as well as David Duke, a former Louisiana state representative and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who is currently running as a Republican for a Louisiana Senate seat.
In a Twitter exchange, the Banner asked Misch why he tweeted the message directed at Morris.
"I was demonstrating the absurdity of a black woman being a Vermont state representative for Bennington County when her racial group comprises only 0.8% of the population over here, according to the most recent census," Misch responded. "It's the equivalent of trying, as a white person, to feel like I could adequately represent the Bedford–Stuyvesant part of Brooklyn, or Baltimore, Detroit, South-Side Chicago, etc. Their values (or lack thereof) and way of life is totally foreign to me and vice versa."
Asked what Vermont values Morris wasn't able to represent due to her race, Misch replied, "She, as a black person, sides with other people of color, and this is why she wants to bring 'cultural enrichment' of so-called refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa to where I live. ... Her ethnicity also tends to make her much more lenient toward the predominantly black/Hispanic criminals who bring heroin up to Bennington, pushing it on white kids and destroying many lives/families all around our community."
In addition to her elected office, Morris is the director of the Bennington-based Alliance for Community Transformations. The Alliance's mission is "To empower, mobilize, and inspire communities to act in collaboration towards delaying first time substance use and preventing substance abuse among youth, reducing its use across all ages and promoting greater wellness and long-term health in the Southshire region of Bennington County," according to the group's website.
In a statement, Morris said: "I am a proud public servant, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and Vermonter. The actions of one person prove that he has no respect for Vermont values nor for those who live in our communities. His actions were an assault on each one of us. It is my belief that the work we must all engage in requires that we both admonish this behavior and work ever more diligently towards eradicating systems that allow for hate and hate crimes to thrive in our state. I have worked closely with many community partners in my years here in Vermont including law enforcement, our military and veterans, social service agencies and schools towards the significant betterment of our communities. I am proud of this work, to serve and represent my community and will continue to do so unfettered by this person's actions."
When asked, Morris said that she did not know Misch. She declined to add to her statement.
"This is an important conversation, but this guy doesn't get to determine when it happens," she said. "I am working on additional efforts towards this conversation, but not now."
— Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.