Open Letter to Gov. Paul LePage from a Black Mainer

Dear Paul,

I hope that you don’t mind, but I am going to call you by your first name. I don’t stand on formality and titles are so overrated. Besides, to be frank, using language like “Honorable” doesn’t quite feel right in the context of what I need to say to you.

Paul, I am hoping this post reaches you but seeing as how you have publicly stated that you don’t really read the newspaper and don’t care much for journalists or blogger types, I am not holding out much hope that you will actually read this. However, I am hoping that one of your handlers will get wind of this and share the contents with you. Because I think you need to hear what I have to say.

My name is Shay Stewart-Bouley and I am a Black woman who lives in Maine. I write a blog called Black Girl in Maine and I have written for publications such as the Portland Press Herald, Journal Tribune, Portland Phoenix and the now-defunct Dig Portland. I have even appeared in a few national publications as well as a few anthologies. However, I am not a writer by trade. No, my current day job is as Executive Director of Boston based Community Change Inc, the oldest continuously running anti-racism organization in the country.

I currently live in the Portland area on one of the islands of Casco Bay though I spent many years in Saco and still have a family home there.

Paul, I have a big problem with the false narrative that you have been constructing around Maine’s horrendous drug problem. First off, Maine really does have a serious drug problem. From York County up to The County, drugs are a huge problem. However, this narrative that  you are fixated on is wrong and it’s downright dangerous. You seem hell bent on blaming out-of-state Black people, specifically Black men, for bringing their drugs up to Maine…thus insinuating that these out-of-state Black folks are the ones causing this drug epidemic.

You keep waffling on the race piece. I mean, you have always had some issues around race. I won’t go into your past because presumably you recall, but to be frank, I don’t think that you think that Black people are part of Maine’s history. Which is pretty funny seeing as how books like H.H Price’s Maine’s Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People does a marvelous job of documenting the history of Black people in Maine. Never mind that many of our fine institutions in this state such as the University of Southern Maine even has an African American Collection of Maine History. I am just saying Paul…Black people have roots here. Some of them very deep and long roots. We are part of the community, albeit a small percentage, but we do exist.

The thing is that right now you are clinging to a dangerous rhetoric that causes Black people to be “othered” and given how on-edge people are about this drug epidemic, frankly I think it’s only a matter of time before someone is going to get hurt. After all, you have cracked wise about Maine being an open carry state and that maybe Mainers should just shoot dealers. Of course, every time you make one of these highly offensive remarks, you attempt to spin it but frankly I am tired of it and your latest comment about how you had to scream at the top of your lungs about Black dealers to the state legislature was the final straw for me.

Look, you don’t have to like me, I don’t have to like you. But as the chief officer of this state, you need to mind the gap between thoughts and words. You actually need to be a responsible and reasonable human being in addressing the state’s drug epidemic rather than assigning blame to Black boogeymen. Yes, there have been some Black folks from out of state who have been caught dealing up here but how do you think they got here? Real talk, Paul…someone had to tell these characters that there was even a market up here. My guess is that some white folks in Maine made those connections to even get that ball rolling. Trust me Paul, while you may see Black people especially Black men as subhuman magical beings that just landed in Maine and set up a drug shop, the reality is that it had to start here and most likely it started with white people. Never mind that last year, there was a record number of meth busts; pretty much everyone I have seen arrested on meth charges is a white person. Hell, meth pretty much seems to be a white boy’s game if we are being honest.

The thing is, your rhetoric isn’t doing anything to get help for Mainers struggling with addiction. After all, you have made it virtually impossible for single low-income folks to access healthcare. We have few treatment options to begin with and that says nothing for addressing the reasons why so many in our state are going down this path to begin with. Instead you are going for the cheap fearmongering tactics which aren’t getting anything solved.

Frankly, it is hard to be Black in a state like Maine. Hell, I moved here back in 2002 for family reasons and it continues to be a struggle to plant roots in a place where I am from away and I am Black. Raising kids in this state, however, gives me a moral imperative to speak up because I want my kids to feel that this is a safe state for them.  My eldest at 24 has long had to endure the weight of Blackness and maleness in this state. Our story isn’t unique. I know more than a few Black families in Maine where the duality of Blackness and maleness causes our sons to flee this state. I know Black women here who are reconsidering if Maine is a place where they can raise their families. In most cases these are white-collar, college-educated folks…a demographic that this state could use given that we have the oldest population in the state.

Paul, I guess I should wind this up but I would love to sit down and talk about race relations and give you some professional guidance wearing my professional hat. Though I suspect this post is nothing more than me spitting in the wind. However, I believe in the power of faith and I believe in the possibility of change so perhaps you or your handlers will reach out  to me so we can start a productive dialogue that will result in you not demonizing Black people and in real solutions to addressing the drug issue. Thanks for your time!

Shay Stewart-Bouley, M.Ed, aka Black Girl in Maine

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26 thoughts on “Open Letter to Gov. Paul LePage from a Black Mainer

  1. Shay, this is awesome. Right on poin. Thank you for your posts. I truly am informed about what your life is like within our white society. Often times I relate to some of your situations., not because my skin is black, but because I carry a different set of labels with their own set of attitudes and misconceptions. Have advocated on behalf of civil rights and social discrimination. Again thank you for your willingness to share with us. Grace. Babcock

  2. LePage claims not to be a politician, yet he is a master of the craft. He is clearly adept in the use of sound bites and fear-mongering. His lexicon contains three words – liberal, welfare, and the recently added socialist. He stirs the fears of the uninformed to his, not their benefit.

  3. Thank you for writing this first-rate letter to a governor who began his first term as worse than an embarrassment and is now a danger to the state and its people, a danger particularly to those groups (Blacks, Muslims, refugees) he chooses to ‘other’. Thank you as well for your last post, which was equally eloquent and excellent. This state needs your voice.

  4. Very well stated and well written. I wouldn’t hold my breath that either Paul or one of his handlers will ever read it—too bad. He is a danger and an embarrassment to the state of Maine and ALL of its residents.

  5. I do hope he takes you up on the offer – for everyone’s sake. Beautifully written, and deserving of a broad audience. Thank you.

    • Even better, I think everyone who reads this should print it out, write a note on why this is important issue to them, and mail it to him. Multiply the effect!

  6. I do hope you choose to stay in Maine. We need your experience, your wisdom and your truth to make this a better place for all people wanting to call Maine home.

  7. Thank you. As a white County girl,, raising biracial, intelligent, beautiful and talented daughters in the state that I have always loved, thank you. You have written a beautifully eloquent letter to one who may or may not see, understand or appreciate it. I assure you that I read, understand and appreciate your courage, strength and honesty. Thank you, I would be honored to work with you to bring our human race together. Let me know how I can help. Anne Francois

  8. I agree with everything you’re saying. However, we all know this gives good ol guvnuh an easy out by ignoring this or pretending not to see it.

    With your background, education, and profession, it seems more worth while to reach out directly to some of his people in Augusta to set up a meeting where you can professionally advise him.

    I mean, it’s pathetic in the first place that a person in his position needs advice on how to simply act professional and responsibly when in his position, but that’s another issue.

    The reality I have seen in my attempts to educate others, discuss racial issues, black lives matter, etc is that they don’t want to change. Changing is challening, and by changing it means they no longer accept the values and beliefs of their families and elders who instilled the bigoted ideas into them in the first place.

    Pair that with a large population of blue collar workers with little education and little exposure to anything but this 99% white state, and it’s easy to see why their old habits die hard.

    It’s frustrating and exhausting to say the least, and since I’m privileged to not have to deal with racism I can only imagine the frustration POC feel.

  9. Wonderful, than you so much for writing that letter, spot on. We have way too many ignorant people in office today.

  10. Those bringing drugs into Maine are simply the mules, no matter what color their skin is. Their bosses (organized crime families, drug cartels, ambitious white-collar business people, corrupt police officials—of which there are many in places like New York and Boston) have identified a market and simply capitalized on it. Until we root out drugs at their source these mules will continue to storm the borders of this and every other state. The war on drugs failed. Until we admit that and come up with a sane and sensible strategy, nothing will change, no matter what ignorant and ill-informed politicians say..

  11. Continue to stay in Maine and use your VOICE, standing tall, speaking loudly and often. Maine needs you!! (As does the Govenor although he may not know it!!)

  12. I can certainly feel your disdain for Lepage and can understand why, he certainly knows how to embarrasse himself and by proxy our state. But combining Lepage with overall race relations in Maine doesn’t really do justice to either issue.
    Like a lot of commentaries about race I don’t hear much about taking responsibility for people’s actions. Why is it so easy to be black and proud but so hard to be black and ashamed. Meaning that people don’t want to talk about reality if it’s negative and blame that on racism or stereotyping when maybe it’s really telling it like it is. I just feel like everyone wants to be a victim of someone’s else’s prejudice verses being held accountable for their actions.
    And lastly I get the feeling from this article that Maine is being labeled as a racist state and that’s forcing black men/people to leave. I find that to be greatly exaggerated and simply not true. Maine is white, we all know that, but that doesn’t mean it’s because of racism.
    So yes Lepage is an idiot, but that doesn’t somehow make Maine a hostile or racist state against black people. If anything the amount of negative feedback Lepage gets in Maine shows the exact opposite.

  13. Shay- I agree. The Buffoon probably won’t see this. You touch upon what I firmly believe. The word RESPECT and the Golden Rule. He needs to start respecting our differences. And stop the insulting and fanning the flames of hatred.
    I love your line -“Look, you don’t have to like me, I don’t have to like you. But as the chief officer of this state, you need to mind the gap between thoughts and words. You actually need to be a responsible and reasonable human being in addressing the state’s drug epidemic rather than assigning blame to Black boogeymen”
    Thanx

  14. Thank you Shay. Was thinking of visiting Maine this summer with my family, but his comments gave me pause. Projection of society’s collective ills on to Blacks is a psychological device to not take responsibility. White politicians betrayed the workers of the USA when they sent their jobs overseas. Then desperate unemployed people of all races, turned to drugs to raise some under the table funds, and because the are depressed and hopeless. I love how he blames this on Black folks and not the Minions of Reagan who began wrecking the economy 30 years ago to make a small group of people richer. The governor is not bright, but just smart enough to say the dog whistle stuff.

  15. Welcome to the club of ” States with Ridiculously embarrassing Gov.” Signed, Texas.
    This is well written!! Glad to see there is still some sanity in Maine. 😀
    Nora
    Houston, Texas

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