I was relaxing Saturday afternoon catching up on Season 3 of Mad Men courtesy of my love who decided to treat me to the gift of renting the entire season at one time rather than making me wait for them to become available on Netflix. It was a lazy day, kidlet was chilling with Papa upstairs so Mama was engrossed in America circa 1960’s when the telephone rang. Initially I ignored but after looking at the number on the caller id, realized it was my good sista friend who used to live in Maine but now resides in southern New England (CT, MA and RI are southern new England, I live in Northern New England). Let’s just say that since she left Maine she has felt no love with the place and I can dig it, hell she spent damn near 10 years living in the same town in Maine made famous by a certain family that gave us 12 years of presidential rule in the last what 25 years…yep, that town, starts with a K and that’s all I got to say about that.
Now when my girl first moved to Maine she was still youngish and happily married to her knight in shining armor, a white fella a good 10 years older than her who made a shitload of cash. So she wanted to live in the best school district for their boys with zero crime…you get the picture. Well lets just say that 10 years in that town took a toll on my girl and that knight in shining armor well he morphed into a cockroach. Right about the time life started changing for my girl she found Blackness in a major way, no more undercover Blackness meaning she was Black when we hung out but did a code switch when she was around whites. Nope she went from being the favorite Negro to having her son’s teacher slap a restraining order on her when she no longer played the game. So yeah, to say she caught the bitter bug about this place would be an understatement.
So she packed up the kids after a bitter divorce and moved back to where she came, but thanks to the divorce and the pesky need for the kids to see their Papa she still is in Maine a couple times a month. Anyway, I gave her a call back since I had a feeling I knew why she was calling. See, a mutual friend had just been in the paper because she was dealing with some racist shit in her little town here in Maine. Long story short, our mutual buddy came across an email that a town official had received and forwarded to other folks…tuns out that email contained a rather unsavory “joke” about Michelle Obama who as we all know happens to be the FLOTUS. The nasty little joke compared Mrs. Obama to an ape, really not very funny at all. Our mutual buddy took this email to the media and lets just say in certain places in Maine folks have a lot to say about this, some felt it was racist as hell and others felt that our buddy was just an oversensitive Black woman playing a deck of those race cards again.
So my girl wanted to talk about this, also she wanted to get a sense of what I planned to do since I do have a venue for sharing my thoughts courtesy of the monthly column I write for a local publication. Of course you know, I have to say something and those thoughts will hopefully be published later this week unless my editor decides otherwise. But what I really want to get to is the heart of the conversation with my girl, she made a seemingly innocent statement that I have been sitting on all weekend. She stated that she felt Maine was and I quote a racist ass state.
Now I know my girl has a lot of bad feelings about Maine, it’s that lovely relationship that goes sour like milk left out on the counter all day. You forget that once upon a time you liked that glass of milk. In her case she forgot she used to love this state. Lately all she can see is the bad but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. Make no mistake there are some racists here but the fact is they are everywhere.
Big cities and urban areas are not immune to racism, shit I grew up in Chicago and in the city limits there were and maybe still are neighborhoods you knew were not places to go if you were Black. You might be fine in downtown Chicago but go 20 mins south to Bridgeport and there were whites who would have no problem pulling out the N-word or jacking you up. I remember years ago, a young Black boy from the adjoining community rode his bike into Bridgeport and a group of savage motherfuckers beat that boy silly to the point of brain damage. This story has repeated itself in numerous so-called diverse areas across the United States. Racism and ignorance to the point of violence is real and not at all limited to small white towns or lily white states. Shit I suspect Southern Illinois is still scary place for Black folks.
I often talk with friends from away who remind me that I live in a white state and remind me how much of a drain it can be on the Black soul. I agree it can be a drain but at the same time being Black anywhere in this country can be a drain on the soul. Looking back on life in Chicago, I was denied jobs due to my race…a brokerage firm flat-out told me they could not hire me because the clients would not want to deal with me because of my race. Once I called about an apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview area, an area that seems open and accepting after all its the home of Boystown (gay community) and well on the phone the place was available but when I showed up less than 2 hours later it was magically gone. I could go on…on the flip side and I am being honest I have not found my race to be a barrier to housing or jobs in Maine. I thought they would be but I actually landed a job, a job that by Maine standards paid damn well with complete benefits less than 2 weeks after moving to Maine. Hell, I thought being a Black woman in Maine would make it harder instead professionally in some ways its been a plus. The biggest challenge has been that salaries are much lower than I want factoring in the 100 grand in student loan debt I am carrying.
Now I know some would say that maybe I was just in the wrong areas in Chicago, well I spent my high school years and a year in my early 20’s living in a predominantly Black area and that wasn’t a cakewalk either. I was either teased or ridiculed for my “white” taste in things or looked down upon because I have working class roots…it was a damn I can’t win for losing situation. Get dissed by folks that are not like me and dissed by the one who are like me. So I have come to a place where I cannot let outside shit affect who I am, yes I miss certain things about living in close proximity to my own kind but I try for the most part to not let it get me down. Technology has allowed me to create a virtual sista circle of Black women who are similar enough to me, that I have support, some are sistas I have met in real life and some I only know via email and phone calls but its enough to sustain the soul.
I wish there was some truly ideal place where one could escape the ugliness of hate but in this country no such place exists so rather than focusing on the negatives I choose to create my own positivity no matter where I go and suggest that others do the same. I like to joke that I create my queendom no matter what…as for the Mainers I suspect if we wanted to call an entire state racist, I say look to southern states. I suspect places like Alabama and Mississippi have a few more racists than a place like Maine. Here we might have a bit of ignorance but not all ignorance equals racism, sometimes lack of exposure creates ignorance but those can often turn into teachable moments.