I have lived in Maine for a little over 27 years and this is the first time that as a Black woman, I feel a little trepidatious. I have been successful here and so these feelings, which are oddly reminiscent of my earlier life living in the South, are new to me here. When I moved to Maine in 1993 I felt so at home and at peace that in 1997 I wrote an article for the Portland Press Herald entitled “To Be An African American in Maine” in which I described my family’s experience with the people here, which for the most part was peaceful, loving and accepting.

I was, and still am, captivated by the stunning beauty of the landscape and the genuine openness of the people. I never gave a thought to the color of my skin as it appeared to be a non-issue – until now.

I have made many wonderful white friends, some so close that we consider each other family. I truly love and appreciate them and I am grateful to have them in my life. They have all reached out to me in some form to show their love, support and shock at the current climate in which we live. As I witness their attempts to comfort me and see their utter shock and disbelief that in 2020 we are in some ways reliving the division, turmoil and unrest that defined the 1960’s, I realize their surprise is genuine.

And that, in some ways, surprises me and my heart goes out to them.

You see, growing up in the South there is always the stigma of being Black and that “Black” somehow equates to “less” or “subhuman.” As a result, you get used to seeing the adjustment in their perception as they realize the conflict between their assumptions about you and the reality of who you really are.

This is the main reason Maine was such a relief. Living here was a respite from the constant undercurrent of being assessed, good or bad, by the color of my skin. This assessment has occurred here a few times but given the demographics, it is not an overall representation of the people.

My friends/acquired family are dumbfounded by the current states of affairs. However, I unfortunately, am not. It occurs to me that it was just a matter of time before we arrived here again– or better stated, come to the realization that while we have made truly significant strides, we never really left the playing field of systemic racism. We merely extended the boundaries and augmented the rules. As a result, all it took was a voice or voices to openly express and incite the racial flame that has laid semi-dormant since the 1960’s and we are here – again.

As the old saying goes “the chickens have come home to roost.” We are confronted, yet again, with the opportunity to truly heal the deep wounds and subsequent scars that our history has left on all of us, regardless of our heritage within it.

— Special to the Telegram

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