I was not born in Maine. I am what Mainers call those who were not born in Maine: “from away.”

I am 26 years old, and I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. I grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood that was plagued with crime, drugs, poverty, depressed and stagnant wages, and gang activity. In my high school years, I witnessed two gang fights. In my senior year of high school, 36 Chicago Public Schools students were killed from areas that were also plagued with crime, drugs, poverty, depressed and stagnant wages and gang activity.

In 2009, I left Chicago, a city of 2.7 million, at the age of 18 to attend college and graduate school in predominantly white and rural areas of Wisconsin, living in cities of 42,000 and 66,000.

Throughout my seven years in Wisconsin, I had to fight the stereotypes that the media presented to those who lacked exposure to any other race, which labeled African-Americans as somehow looking, dressing, walking and talking alike, and listening to the same music, which, of course, was rap or hip-hop. I also had to push back against the description of me as the “whitest black person” or the underhanded compliment “You are so articulate.” I came to realize, though, that I could not paint all white people with a broad brush because of statements or actions from a few.

Soon after arriving in Maine in 2016, I took notice and became concerned about outrageous statements that surprisingly came from an elected official who is also the chief executive of this state: Gov. Paul Richard LePage.

The governor has stated that certain immigrants bring in the “Ziki fly” and other diseases; that “90-plus percent” of the people in his binder of mugshots of drug dealers in Maine are black or Hispanic; that blacks named D-Money and Shifty and Smoothie come to Maine to sell drugs and impregnate white women, and that blacks should apologize to Northern whites for fighting in the Civil War.


He failed to understand that when he uttered those various unfounded, racist and ignorant comments, I had to carry the wounds that he inflicted with his words, and believe me, those wounds hurt.

What’s more, his remarks are at odds with what’s going on in Maine. According to recent U.S. Census figures, as of 2016 there were 1,331,479 people living in Maine, with the overwhelming majority of the state’s population (94.8 percent) identifying as white. But compare that to 2010, when the total population of the state was 1,328,364, with whites making up 95.2 percent of the population.

Furthermore, as Time magazine has reported, a University of New Hampshire study determined that Maine was one of 17 states that experienced a natural decline (more deaths than births) in the white population in 2014. On top of that, Maine’s young citizens are leaving the state. According to the Bangor Daily News, Internal Revenue Service statistics indicate that from 2011 to 2015, Maine lost more than 1,800 workers under the age of 26 and had a net loss of 667 workers under the age of 65.

The recent events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, were an eerie reminder that the issue of race relations in America remains a wound that cannot seem to heal. White nationalists and other hate groups want to take the nation back to a time where hate was the norm and was used as the justification to kill, torture and terrorize blacks and other minorities, immigrants and those of certain religions, including Jewish and Roman Catholic Americans. Frankly, America has seen this movie before, and we don’t want to watch it again.

Last Saturday also showed me that even white people are sick of their own people’s using division and hate to advance an ideology and perceived fear of the extinguishment of the white race. Have no fear, white people, you will not become extinct like the dinosaur.

With all that I have mentioned, I pose the following question to white Mainers: Will you allow unfounded and ignorant statements from elected officials or fringe groups like white nationalists to cloud your judgment and sway you into putting at risk your state’s economic vitality by resisting a demographic shift toward an increased minority population? Or will you accept that America is a part of a global economy and that demographic change is essentially inevitable and, indeed, necessary for Maine to not only survive but also to thrive?

Reginald Parson is a member of the class of 2019 at the University of Maine School of Law and a resident of Portland.

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