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Kiah Morris was the only African American woman in the Vermont state legislature until this fall, when she resigned from her position in the state House of Representatives due to prolonged threats and racist attacks during her reelection campaign. Morris was a vocal activist working against inequality and racism for years before her election in 2014, and her resignation in 2018 stands out as especially disturbing amidst the hateful tenor of American politics under the Trump administration. In this episode of The Scarlet Letter Reports, host Amanda Knox meets Morris shortly after her resignation.
“You are not, in any way, shape, or form, ever required to have to deal with people coming at you with hateful comments,” Morris says. Hatred isn’t political disagreement; the way that Morris has been targeted is the result of a carefully targeted assault by white supremacists. She has been targeted since her initial election four years ago, and the threat of violence became a “nightmare,” Morris says, including home invasion while she was asleep, vandalism, swastikas painted on trees, stalkers, strangers banging on her windows, and a death threat delivered to her home.
In Vermont, 94.5 percent of the population is white, and though the state is often associated with progressive values, Morris explains that, like anywhere in the United States, there are people who want to push back against progress. “If our systems are not set up to ensure that that doesn’t happen, then they need to change. Not you.” According to Morris, law enforcement didn’t take the harassment seriously, and now she is working with the NAACP to “prove the attacks were racially motivated.”
In the second episode of season two of The Scarlet Letter Reports Kiah Morris opens up about how the experience has impacted her family, and how difficult it was to resign: “It was excruciating,” she says.