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Discrimination Survey Results
In the Fall of 2022, the Lebanon Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Commission conducted a survey to understand people’s experiences with discrimination in our City. More than 100 residents and visitors completed the survey. In sharing these results, we remained as true as possible to people’s exact wording without compromising meaning.
Nearly half of the respondents (48%) had lived in the Upper Valley for 20 years or more, and 85% were either very satisfied or satisfied with Lebanon as a place to live or visit. The racial demographics of respondents was quite similar to that found in Lebanon overall, with some underrepresentation among white respondents.
We asked about various categories of discrimination and found that most people do not experience discrimination very often or ever. Those that do experience discrimination often (every day, once a week, and a few times a month), report being treated with less courtesy and respect; they receive poorer service than others in restaurants and stores; and people act as if they are not smart and as if they are better than them. Overall, people who live and visit Lebanon are seldom insulted, threatened, or harassed.
Those who had experienced discrimination attributed it to these reasons with the following frequency.
Some respondents listed the following additional reasons for discrimination that were not provided in the list.
- My personality type (shy/introverted)
- Being pregnant
- Not a New Englander; Grew up Southern; People don't know me; I am from someplace else
- Being a conservative
- Low income, can’t afford haircut or nice clothes; I don't dress like a rich person
- People don't agree with my opinions
- The color of my hair (white hair)
- Marital and familial status (I am single and childless)
- Broken English
- The way I carry myself
Many people had suggestions for improvement, and we categorized these into four main groups. The Lebanon DEI Commission will use these suggestions to guide our actions going forward.
- Emphasizing that this town is most certainly growing in diversity. Older individuals who have lived here for long periods of time can come off as entitled and maneuver in a way that makes me uncomfortable, which results in me shying away from any social interaction.
- Anti-Racism Training, people should read the book White Fragility.
- Thank you for taking steps with this survey. Please share results widely once you have them.
- Help people recognize that discrimination happens in the Upper Valley.
- Open and honest discussion.
- Education and awareness, and maybe some love.
- Educating the public, raising awareness and compassion towards others.
- Educate people starting at a young age; also respect or lack of begins in the home--starting with parent, siblings, grandparents, foster parents, etc.
- Maybe some public sessions to let discriminated citizens share their feelings.
- I don’t think Lebanon has a particularly visible problem with discrimination, but education is always helpful.
- Training and education. Read what people say online, do some research. Just try and see other people’s experiences it will make the world so much better!
- Continue inviting new hires/transplants to Lebanon activities like the Farmer’s Market, hiking, biking, etc.
- The City can be more obvious in discouraging discrimination, perhaps through signage in key places.
- Visibility, representation, getting to know neighbors of different origins.
- There is a national movement of becoming a Compassionate City, which has very good action guidelines. Also here are some thoughts/suggestions: being careful; being kind; being compassionate; education; exposure (recent events in Colburn Park have been great: pride celebration, Juneteenth, Frederick Douglass reading).
- Have an LGBTQ+ place of gathering, even if it is a coffee shop, restaurant, work space.
- It could be helpful for the town to start an initiative that explores and/or celebrates the diversity of people who claim Lebanon as home, reinforcing the idea that Lebanon claims them back!
- Signage all around saying “Welcome to Lebanon” to make clear we welcome everyone.
- Actively seek input, communication, collaboration, and participation with younger residents, residents of diverse backgrounds (beyond long-time white residents with property).
- By having open discussions. The area is getting more and more diverse. We need to have discussion to discuss acceptance of people of color, sexual orientation, etc.
- Education, bring in more ethnic/LBGTQAI+ owned businesses, more events that bring people together.
- Fostering empathy is hard, opportunities for interactions between people, group activities, shared events.
- Reach out to minority voices and help them organize.
- I think experiences that allow people to step out of their normal circles, learn about others, and have new experiences are the most meaningful ways to reduce discrimination. How the city could provide these opportunities is difficult to say. Perhaps offering free, easy to access opportunities to interact with others might be an option. Using a topic from the survey, maybe different faith based organizations would be willing to participate in a fair/presentation/event that is designed to reduce misinformation or misperceptions.
- Have more multicultural events.
- Promote diversity through multicultural/cross-cultural events (e.g., Concord NH has a multicultural day every year, perhaps reach out to their organizers for info and/or advice). Host discussion panels and other events that showcase the diversity of the Upper Valley. Educational events at schools and workplaces.
- Celebrate diverse residents. Tell their stories. Have a town-reading and discussion of a book about a different culture. Include diverse voices in elementary reading lists. Highlight the values of Lebanon and ask what that means to all kinds of residents.
- Continue to host inclusive events in Colburn Park.
- Events that encourage a diverse audience at no charge, various times of the week.
- Customer service training for staff.
- I would like to see leaders take action or examples where they have. People seem to "let things slide" because it is more comfortable. I would like to see more women and more people of color in staff and leadership roles.
- There is always work to be done. The City should look at policies, procedures and services that could be perceived to be discriminatory or to perpetuate white privilege. It would be great if there were teachers of color in our schools and people from underrepresented minorities in local government. I think Lebanon is well-intentioned and has made progress and I look forward to even more.
- Encourage incident reporting, aggregate analytics, and training for area employers.
- EVERY employee, not just leadership, should complete required trainings about cultural/ADA/anti-discrimination sensitivities once a year. Lebanon should improve its recruitment efforts for employees, not just seeking candidates who are local. Lebanon should institute a DEI/equity checklist for project reviews, both public/tax-paid projects and development/Planning Board projects especially as the Planning Board has tended to disfavor higher density projects or those for disadvantaged people (i.e., homeless like the one that was proposed in WLeb) because of privileged people making comment at public meetings, without giving weight to those voices not present at the meetings or with access to them. This results in a maintenance of the status quo in Lebanon. Lebanon is also not very friendly for aging populations and should look into how to improve accessibility or mobility options beyond paving the rail trail (which actually is worse for joints and runoff and taxpayer dollars). Also, Lebanon might consider solicitations for cultural events highlighting different identities, or a festival celebrating many all at once (i.e., multi-ethnic) as many feel hidden.
- Hearing the voices of minorities can only happen if they are sought out. The City can actively seek out the voices of the underrepresented and attempt to include them in all community-based decision making.
- Policies and housing that combat income inequality.
- More diversity in city leadership and public-facing positions.
- Get the Leb Police Dept to track and share demographic data on traffic stops and other incidents.
- I applaud the creation of this committee and its inquiry-first approach.
- I’m not sure what the current official policy is on rental properties in town, but with the NH unoccupied rental rate being so low and Lebanon being a desirable and relatively expensive place to live, I think it’s worth strongly enforcing that rentals in town be equal-opportunity, because the kind of quiet housing discrimination happening behind the scenes can and does lead to a less diverse and ultimately less welcoming town.
- I think continued support for a development of very strong cultural institutions in Lebanon has made a huge difference, including but not limited to the Lebanon Opera House, the farmer’s market at Coburn Park, AVA, and both the main library in Lebanon and Kilton in West Lebanon. Careful planning to develop affordable, accessible housing along Advance Transit routes would help Lebanon support working class and struggling citizens and families. Diversity must include the entire socio-economic spectrum.
- Lebanon should develop more affordable housing.
- Be diligent in screening for prejudice in city hiring, especially in essential services where someone can't opt out, like the police.