Dogs and Mainers Pt 2.. Tolerance and White Folks

In case you haven’t figured out this is a pretty new blog, I started it initally in January with the idea of tying it into my other writing and projects, and then promptly put it on the back burner. Then a few weeks ago decided to give it another try.

In the past few days, I have gotten a lot of comments (lot relative to the size of posts in this blog) about my entry on dogs and Mainers, enough to make me revisit the idea with some additional thoughts. Someone made a comment that has been on my mind all day about understanding the culture of outdoor type states and if I am not a dog person maybe I should not have moved to Maine. I must be honest that comment raised my blood pressure a tad, probably because in the 4 years that I have been writing on diversity in Maine for a local paper, whenever I make a critical comment about Mainers especially my fellow white Mainers, I am almost certain to get a letter or email telling me to leave Maine if I don’t like it.

Well for starters my move to Maine was not my choice, sometimes in life we make moves to locations for family or jobs, and find ourselves in locations that would not have been of our choosing and well, that’s what Maine is for me. Don’t get me wrong its a gorgeous state, but truthfully I am a Black woman from Chicago so moving from a city of 3.5 million to a state of 1.5 million was already major culture shock and we aren’t even getting to the small tidbit that 97% of this state’s residents are white. Um, that is a major fucking adjustment.

That said, I am not anti-dog, granted I may never own a dog personally, then again I probably won’t own a cat either, I am not a pet person and my pesky allergies really don’t help the matter either.

However I find it fascinating that living in this day and age where we strive for inclusion and diversity that for some aka some white folks the idea of seeing things from someone else’s point of view is extremely hard to do. Now as a Black woman I live what I call a dual life, see I must understand my culture as a Black American woman, yet in order to live in the greater American culture I must also understand white folks as its pretty hard to live independent of white folks in America and that has nothing to do with being in Maine. Last time I looked most of the major corporations and wealth are ran and held by white folks. So even if I were back in Chicago living down on say 79th and Racine, mostly likely my job would still make it that I would need to leave my predominantly Black neighborhood and go work downtown where most likely my boss or the bosses boss would be white. Simple fact that is hard to avoid. At that job, I would be expected to conduct myself in a manner that is pleasing and comforting to whites aka be a non-threatning black person. Ok, cool we all do what we gotta do to earn the cheddar to keep ourselves housed and clothed.

You may be wondering what the hell does this have to do with dogs? Well for me it brings up the fact that as a Black woman I must always tolerate and adjust to things that sometimes I want to call bullshit on, just to get by in a world ran and owned by people who look nothing like me. Yet when the shoe is on the other foot for my white brothers and sisters it seems a lot harder to do. In the case of my friend I mentioned in my initial dog post, all she wanted was to attend a workshop/retreat and be able to breathe.. yes, I get it that the dog is family but the dog could not be left for a few hours?

In my example of the street festival I attended, I am sorry but a festival packed with throngs of people and kids just does not seem like a good place to have large dogs that often like to be friendly with people who frankly may just want to enjoy the fireworks and some fried dough.

By the same token, I know if I am at the beach or I go to my local farm for my CSA pickup that I can and should expect dogs, farms and dogs, beaches and dogs, even in my mind they go together. I may not like it, but I get it.

That said, if we want true inclusion, we must look at and consider everyone’s point of view and actually hear their words. As I tell my two year old daughter “Do you have your listening ears on?”

Fear in Maine- Raising Black boys

Elder child aka the boy is home for the summer from his Papa’s house (aka the ex-spousal unit) and as always the first few days of him being home are an adjustment for me since having another member of the opposite sex in my domain always tends to throw me off momentarily.

This year though things are different for me, see elder child turned 16 a few months ago and for the first time I finally understood the fear my parents had with my brother that caused them to flee the south side of Chicago to a more racially diverse area of Chicago because they were scared for my brother. Scared he might get sucked into the gangbanging lifestyle at the tender age of 10, sadly I wish this was an exaggeration but the old neighborhood that my Granny and family lived in for almost 40 years; by the late 80’s early 90’s had become a hotbed of gang activity. On the surface the area seemed quiet but when you raise kids you notice the action that goes.

When we moved to Maine 6 years ago (not even gonna explain how we landed here) a part of me naively felt that I would not have to worry about elder child being targeted for gangs and the madness that can exist in the larger cities, so I willingly traded my urban lifestyle in Chicago for the coast of Maine and a town of sixteen thousand. I figured he would have a chance to be a kid and while Maine and New England has afforded him much freedom and exposure to nature he never would have had in Chicago, in the past few months its dawned on me that its also afforded him something else and that is an exposure to racism in its rawest form.

Don’t get me wrong life was never peaches and cream back in Chicago, shit I grew up knowing that Bridgeport and Cicero were 2 locations in the Chicago area I never ever wanted to be caught in, followed by Mount Greenwood where at 14, I had a preschool age kid call me a nigger. However most racism in Chicago and most big cities manifest itself in slow under the radar ways, as I like to say the white folks know they cannot just start talking greasy or else heads will roll.

Well living in a small town in a fairly homogenous state, I can honestly say I have encountered little in terms of racism, yeah folks stare but the longer I live here the locals know me so generally its only the tourists staring so by late Oct they are all gone and life goes ok. People to some degree seem more real to me, I have a few neighbors who I swear have redneck tendencies but on more than one occasion have plowed us out of 15 inches of snow without me asking and who ply mini me aka the daughter with sweet treats.

That said, I have noticed that now that elder boy is 6’2 with facial hair and looks more like a man rather than a child, the same niceties that are extended to me and his sister seem to stop at him. Earlier this year while walking home from a local sandwich shop he was picked up by the local po-po because he fit the description of a suspect who turned out to be white and rather short. Elder boy at the time was armed with a cheese-steak sandwich and fries, the local po-po gave him a ride in the cop car and brought him home at which time, officer not so friendly upon encountering my other half aka the house white man, started back pedaling and explaining it was just a mix up. Needless to say I have often wondered what would have happened what if I was married to a Black man, would the cop have been so eager to please or tried to pin every unsolved crime in town on both of them.

Most recently, elder child and his best friend were on a local bus coming back from the beach, when elder child says an older white man and his crony started talking loudly about niggas coming to their job being loud and spending money and complaining. Elder child says he was not the only Black man on the bus but the others put their head down, but being my son he was raised to stand up for injustice. I won’t bore you with the details but he did the right thing and the 2 old racists decided to shut the hell up since apparently elder child was ready to open up a can of whup ass on them.

Now when he told me the story, I was proud of him but also scared especially when I saw his rage not just at the 2 racists (as I told him they are bitter and clinging to outdated notions of the world so don’t worry about them) but at the other young Black man on the bus who put his head down. He asked me Mama, how could he (the other Black man) just put his head down? Honestly I don’t know, fear, shame, who knows…

That said I have come to realize that while I am proud as hell to have a son who will stand up for what’s right, I am scared, scared everytime he walks out the door whether he is here in Maine or at his Dad’s house which is just outside of Chicago. I am also mad at a society that makes it necessary for Black women to fear when our sons walk out the door.

I often wonder do white Mamas have these same fears, I suspect not and that discrepancy is only a portion of what can make a Black woman become an Angry Black Woman.

Roots of anger start young

Yesterday, I was out with my almost 3 year old daughter and witnessed a rather interesting incident that only reconfirmed to me that the roots of Black anger as it relates to sistas and the fact that the anger starts young.

The girl and I were having one of our Momma and me times at a local cafe here in our small town, it’s a neat cafe especially since it’s owned by a gay interracial (1 partner is Latino, the other is white) couple who has a daughter almost a year younger than the girl. Well we were sitting next to their daughter’s playpen which they keep in the cafe since they work together, their daughter is a cute child, no doubt but as you can imagine she is a white child, not that there is anything wrong with that but I am trying to set the scene here so bear with me.

Anyway cute white child who I will call Z is playing and cooing in her playpen the way almost 2 years olds do, when a middle age white female customer on her way out, walks over to Z’s pit and starts carrying on with how beautiful Z is, yada, yada. Well my daughter, The Girl starts watching the exchange in that way that kids do when they see a kid with something they don’t have, after about 5 mins, middle age woman finally puts a sock in it and heads to the door but not before turning towards towards my daughter who had been intently looking at this exchange and saying you are a cutie too but keeps walking. The way she said it was as an afterthought. It was a what the hell kind of moment, for just a second a strange look flashed on my daughter’s face, yet in that second I knew that expression because even though at almost 3 she can’t articulate it, as a Cocoa brown sista who was attended predominantly white schools, I know that feeling. That feeling that says maybe I am not cute.

Now you may be reading this, thinking come on Black Girl aren’t you reading alot more into this… well  to be honest no, when you have as a whole, a group of people (Black women) who often will do anything to change their looks to fit the expected norm of cultural beauty (hello, relaxer, weave and blond hair on cocoa complected sistas) I don’t think I am reading too much at all.

Its one of the reasons that despite the fact that The Girl’s daddy aka my spousal unit is white, that the girl will never get a white doll from me, shit I look back at my own baby pictures and see me hugged up with a white doll and wonder what the fuck were Moms and Pops thinking.

No, in this society even at a young age the message slowly seeps in that white is the best, white is beautiful and its small exchanges like what I witnessed where in just a moment of time, I saw my daughter question why middle age woman did not treat her like Z, that start the long road to what at 35 or 40 becomes an angry Black woman.

Now off I go to get my iced coffee, until next time.