Today’s post is written by a guest writer, Dontavis Hines and you can read about him in his own words.
My name is Dontavis Hines. I typically go by “Dante” and recently started using the name, “Dante Speaks” to raise the volume of my voice surrounding racial issues I face as a black man in Maine. I’m a man of many talents including dancing, singing, story-telling and nurturing others; you can always ask more about my personal life.
I moved to Maine in 2011 to be a missionary in the campus ministry, associated with my church. Although I had only planned on staying in Maine for one year, God has his ways of twisting up one’s journey here on earth. I’m still here in one of the whitest states, seven years later. During my time here thus far, I realized that I was different and that I needed to start talking about those disparities more. I currently am aiming to become a Nurse Practitioner of Psychiatry and one day hope to reach out to many who suffer (some unknowingly) from mental disorders. I’m a nursing student by day and night and an activist whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I’m going to keep this real simple and discrete. Over the past few years of living in Maine, I’ve had to deal with a lot of white people’s ignorance. In this particular case, a white woman decided that she was going to casually joke about little Black girls and how her white mother perceived our beautiful princesses.
I believe God put me in the right place at the right time. Why else was I there to witness such racist remark? As I stood near this white woman, she proceeded to make her “joke” about how her mother would threaten to dress her up as a little black girl for Halloween. For some reason, she decided to tell this story of hers, in my presence. I’m a Black man with a little Black sister and little Black girl cousins. It was almost as if she was trying to provoke me in which she succeeded at to some degree. Did she really think I wasn’t going to say anything and just let her be a “Passive Patty?” You know? White women who attempt to be slick at the mouth with racial microaggressions and think that a Black person like me is just going to be accepting of it? Yeah, I don’t tolerate those kind of white women.
As she continued telling her little “joke”, she went on about her mother’s threat. “My mom used to threaten to dress me up as a little black girl, to paint my face black and to put brillo-pads in my hair if I didn’t behave,” she announced as everyone else around us laughed out loud. I immediately thought to myself, Is she really doing this right now? Is she trying to get my attention?
I knew I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. I didn’t want to be deemed the “angry Black man” so I turned around calmly and said, “You cannot dress up as a Black person for Halloween.” Her and her other white peers, and one other brown lady, ceased at laughing and went back to minding their business. I was so annoyed, upset and hurt all at once.
I later made a complaint about her racial remarks and of course, we all know how that turned out. Nothing happened other than an apology; this was not how I hoped for the situation to turn out but when you’re a Black man in America, trying to stand up to a white person, we typically don’t stand a chance. I honestly didn’t even know what brillo-pads were until I googled them. I was humiliated. I couldn’t believe that she grew up in a home where her mother taught her to compare Black hair to brillo pads; a scrubbing tool used for washing dirty dishes. Who knows what else she was taught by her white parents?
Racism is often taught to white children in their homes, even when it’s subtle or seemingly innocent. As usual, white folks “mean no harm” but they never fail at causing it nonetheless.
Dear white people: As we approach Halloween, please don’t attempt to dress up as Black person. Please don’t paint your face black to try to be any Black person. Please don’t threaten to dress your white children up as Black people, as if we’re some scary costume or a sort of punishment.
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