Black professor with NY plates in Vermont told to leave state

Columbia university teacher pulled over, but was it his race or his other address the root of his harassment?

Chris Brown and wife
Chris Brown and wife sit in their Hartford, VT home. (Photo: Howard Weiss-Tisman/Vermont Public Radio)

In another bias-related incident involving white civilians and a Black man, a professor in Vermont is claiming that two men told him to leave the state. 

The incident occurred in Hartford, VT when Christopher L. Brown driving with his 11-year-old son was flagged down by two unknown vehicles. He told police that he pulled over thinking the men might have been having car trouble. 

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The victim, who is Black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave,” police said in the statement, adding, “There were significant racial undertones to the interaction.”

Brown noted that he and his family had recently returned to the state after school was canceled to the COVID-19 pandemic to stay at their second family home. Because he has multiple residences, he was driving a car with New York plates. New York is where he also lives and teaches. He told police that he was being verbally harassed and threatened. In the statement, the police said that the Columbia University professor and father wanted to “verbally de-escalate the situation and head home” without the interaction turning physical. 

Brown did tell police that he was “in fear for the physical safety of him and his son.”  He had taken his son out to buy a gift for his wife, Hilary Anne Hallett.

Christopher Leslie Brown is a brilliant professor of history at Columbia University, who has done extensive study on slavery. He is also the author of “Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism,” for which he won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize.

While at first, this seems like a racially motivated harassment, it might not be. The suggestion was that because he had New York tags, and New York as a state has had some of the highest concentrated COVID-19 infections and deaths in the world, that he and his family might be contaminated. The bigotry, in this case, would be because he is a New Yorker.

Race and history, which he knows so well, simply compounded the educator’s fears.

In a report from, Vermont Governor Phil Scott said he spoke with the victim personally and said though there is travel guidance in place, people who have homes or family here are welcome to the state.

“I want to be very clear,” Scott said, “I have no tolerance for this kind of thing. It’s unacceptable. It does not represent my views or who I believe we are as a state.”

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Vermont has also been experiencing anti-Asian incidents. The governor said, “this virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry, or division.”

Vermont has just over 900 cases of COVID-19 in the state and 53 deaths.

Ahmaud Arbery, another Black man, was gunned down by two white men in Georgia who claimed that they were trying to execute a citizen’s arrest.