The other day we received a letter from someone who read our op-ed in the Bangor Daily News. We were so moved by the letter, and felt so strongly that others should hear its message, that we asked the writer if we could publish it here.
The writer agreed, but asked to remain anonymous - they had mixed feelings about doing so, but ultimately decided it was necessary to protect themself and their family. As the writer said, remaining anonymous is "an example of how I have to make daily decisions, while I live in Maine, to ensure my safety as a person of color."
Here is the letter:
I would like to say thank you for acknowledging the serious implications of the governor's remarks. I am a "black person from away" having moved here a little over a year ago from out of state. And unfortunately, I plan to eventually leave Maine.
Aside from teaching, I am a writer. To be closer to family, I took a chance and moved to Maine. Also, I had heard that Portland was a hub percolating with new artists, and I thought it would be exciting to explore that community. I looked at my move to Maine as an adventure.
Unfortunately, for people of color, we don't have the freedoms that whites do to have adventures in our own country. It seems that racism follows us everywhere we go. Just as I began to relax here in Maine, all of the racist shootings began happening all over the country, and it was quite scary to see people wearing confederate flags during my first summer here.
After I spoke to many Mainers, and students, about LePage’s remarks, most felt that LePage’s remarks were a minor slip-up, and that it was best to just ignore his remarks as an expected faux pas of an already controversial politician. Not one person that I spoke to asked me how this incident of racism impacts me. Since I was not asked, I wondered, do they really want to know? Their silence perpetuates an eerie normalization of racism, and this silence, I believe, is a negation of facing harsh truths about the social beliefs of race that exists in Maine. If one doesn’t ask me how this type of racism affects my comfort level as I go about my daily life here in Maine, then as my fellow citizen, you don’t have to share my pain or acknowledge that people of color still aren’t embraced and treated as human beings in this country. The meaning and relevancy of my identity, in this state, is relegated to a faux pas.
I strongly believe that anyone who holds office, and expresses racist remarks, should be automatically removed from office. As a teacher, I cannot express racist beliefs in the classroom, or make any statement that diminishes the humanity of any individual or group of people. I am held to a higher standard as I have been chosen to teach responsibly within the public educational system. LePage is an elected official who has a responsibility to the citizens he represents, and any statement he vocalizes should be automatically held to a higher standard.
“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty — these types of guys… Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.” ~ Paul LePage
When LePage makes these statements, he is using blatant racist code language to refer to black men, and it is statements like this that echo back to the early colonial days of the 1600’s when Amalgamation laws were put into place that prohibited any type of mixed raced marriage or relationships. These laws carried with them a special emphasis on severe punishment to black men who were speculated to be in a union with a white woman. LePage’s statements are echoes of historical racist beliefs that were ingrained into the governing of the early colonies, Maine included.
If anything, history has shown us that statements of this nature lead to more serious implications, and causes me to wonder what beliefs govern the daily decision making of LePage. When an elected official makes remarks that undermine the legitimacy of any citizen who is not white, these beliefs creates an unsafe environment for people of color that do live in Maine.
I believe that we are now at a time where abolitionism needs to come to life again. I applaud the tenacity of the ACLU, and I do hope you continue efforts to promote awareness. If we all don't, I fear for where our society is heading.