Citing racially motivated harassment and threats, a black Vermont state legislator resigned on Tuesday. However, when state Rep. Kiah Morris was pressed for details of her alleged persecution, she refused to elaborate or provide details, saying that she didn’t want the “glossy minutiae” of her ongoing harassment to distract from larger issues of systemic racism.
“I am having a really hard time with this line of questioning, and I apologize,” Morris said during an interview with the New York Times when she was asked basic questions about her claims. “I feel very resistant to get into the details of what we are talking about.”
Calling it quits
Rep. Morris, who was elected to represent the town of Bennington in 2014, claims that local police didn’t take her allegations seriously.
“There was vandalism within our home,” she told the Times. “We found there were swastikas painted on the trees in the woods near where we live. We had home invasions.”
She added: “It has come and gone and in different waves, but then it picked back up again and of course we are back in an election season so there’s always more.”
However, the evidence the representative has provided so far appears to be limited to instances of online harassment. Morris was granted a protective stalking order against someone who posted an offensive caricature on Twitter mocking her for representing a mostly white district, and her husband has shared racist social media comments that the couple has received.
But racist online trolling is a far cry from being the victim of racially motivated home invasions and property damage. So far, Morris hasn’t produced any evidence of these serious hate crimes and refuses to elaborate on them by providing basic details like time and place.
Back in August, Morris announced that she would not seek a fourth term representing Bennington, citing the harassment. On Tuesday, the state legislator accelerated her withdrawal from civic service by revealing her resignation.
Morris also provided other reasons for leaving office unrelated to the alleged harassment. She listed her husband’s failing health and the low wages for state representatives as reasons for her withdrawal from politics.
“To serve in this state requires sacrifice, literally even financial sacrifice,” she said, pointing to her $13,000 annual income for five-to-six months of work. “It is a system set up for the wealthy and the retired.”
Still, Morris contends that “as a state we are not familiar, we are not prepared, we are not ready at all” to deal with issues of racial justice. Vermont, where 94 percent of residents are white, is one of the most racially homogeneous states in the country, and just 1 percent of citizens are black.
With Morris’s exit from politics, only a handful of non-white legislators remain in the state’s 180-member legislative body. Two of these are male senators, and there also are two non-white members of the House.
Unfortunately for Morris, in an era when a qualified Supreme Court justice experienced a political smear campaign based off of uncorroborated claims of sexual harassment dating back to his years as a teenager, it takes more than unsubstantiated allegations to likewise discredit and defame citizens from an entire state.
Evidence should be counted as more than just “glossy minutiae,” and it is extremely lacking in this case.