Vt. Barber Says Not Good at Cutting Blacks’ Hair

John Curran, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), November 9, 2010

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The story begins Oct. 5, when Fisher [Dr. Darryl Fisher], a physician from Taos, N.M., was visiting Bellows Falls, a village of about 3,500 residents along the Connecticut River, and walked up the steps into Aldrich’s storefront barber shop.

Aldrich [barber Mike Aldrich] was playing cards with a friend, and Fisher asked if the barber was in. Aldrich said no, and Fisher went on his way. Later, walking past, Fisher saw through the front window that the man who’d told him the barber was out was cutting the hair of a white customer.

Fisher, 57, didn’t go in. When he returned home, though, he sent a letter to the editor of the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper, recounting what had happened and saying he wouldn’t want to work or live in Bellows Falls if that’s the way businesses treat people.

“The way he looked at me–and this is just my opinion–and the way he just said, ‘No,’ when I asked if the barber was there and wouldn’t tell me when the barber was coming in, and then 15 minutes later he’s cutting somebody else’s hair. Through my experience with racism, I thought it was racially motivated,” Fisher said Monday in a telephone interview.

Aldrich, a one-man shop who sometimes plays host to impromptu cribbage games between regulars at a table near the front window, has been cutting hair for 40 years.

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Aldrich says that he gets only about one black customer a year at his shop in Bellows Falls, which lies on the Vermont-New Hampshire border and is 97 percent white. {snip}

“I’m sorry,” he said he tells them. “You can sit in the chair if you want, but I’ve tried cutting it, and I have problems. Whether I don’t have the right equipment, I don’t know.”

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As unhappy as Fisher was with the treatment, he was impressed when he heard about Saturday’s demonstration, in which about two dozen people–at least one carrying a sign that said “Hate has no home here”–staged a sidewalk protest. Their message: Bellows Falls and the Vermont region aren’t racist.

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