Not all skinfolk is kinfolk…living in Maine while Black

From time to time well meaning friends and acquaintances who live back in Chicago or places with far more diversity than my current state of Maine will lament with me over how hard it must be to live in a state where to be honest there is not a lot of racial diversity. In my early days in Maine, I would often associate bad days with the fact that if only I had more folks who looked like me, all would be well. As if the mere presence of Black and Latino folks would be my magical Tara from which I would draw my strength.

In the past year though while I do wish certain products and services were more readily available, personally it bothers me less and less that there is not a great deal of diversity here. See, not all skinfolk is kinfolks to quote the marvelous Zora Neale Hurston. I was reminded of this recently when I went back to Chicago and actually decided to leave a day early after dealing with some interpersonal shit with my so called friends.

Let me go way back to a time when I was just a wee lass growing up in Chicago so you can get a sense of who I am. I grew up with two Black  parents who raised their 2 kids to be Black. Yet I was that geeky kid who well to be honest was bookish, my cool factor was diminished in the eyes of my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members because we lived on Chicago’s northside and not in the hood. (considering my folks were Black hippies we were hardly living large, we were broke) I attended schools where in the early grades I was the only fly in the buttermilk to quote my Granny.

This meant when I got together with family and family friends I was teased mercilessly for talking and acting like a white girl. See Black Girl in Maine, cannot jump rope aka double dutch to save her life, my dancing skills are well limited though I actually keep time with the music these days and don’t make a complete ass of myself. Whenever I tried to hang with my folk’s fact is I got burnt emotionally and was made to feel like I didn’t belong and was not welcomed.

Last time I saw one of my most fervent torturers was almost 7 years ago when my Mom was dying and even then this relative tried to as we used to say throw shade on me and clown me. Only problem was at that point I was a grown ass woman and at that stage in my life with my Mom in rough shape I had no interest in playing those games. I also let that same relative know we could take it outside and she would learn that the lil girl she used to tease didn’t exist anymore. I might still talk white at times, but don’t get fooled, if need be I will handle my business. Interestingly but that relative died 2 yrs after my Mom and now what family members do talk to me, often talk about maybe there was value in the way my folks raised my brother and I. In our generation of the family we are the only two have had no brushes with the law, or any outward signs of hard living.

Funny thing is at this point and I think I speak for my brother we don’t give a rat’s ass about them; though the lack of family and my kids makes me stay connected in an indirect way because I feel my kids should at least know these folks. Even though not all skinfolk in ya kinfolk.

So yeah my relationship to most of my family except for literally a handful of folks is strained at best. I am not sure I fared better when it came to relationships with non family members. In the 5th grade I met a sista who has been in my life ever since. Yet some shit went down recently that has me realizing that not everyone we call a friend is a friend some folks are merely acquaintances even if we are tight and have known each other over 25 years. Those 2 facts don’t make us best friends forever…

Don’t get me wrong its not as if I have had lousy relationships with all folks of color and great relationships with white folks because that is definitely not true. No, instead I have realized its important for me to just be around good folks who nurture me and offer friendship who I can reciprocate with. Fact is some of the best damn people I have met in almost 40 years on this planet have been here in Maine. All except for a few are white but true connection allows for connecting across race and culture. Yes, there are differences and yes they can be annoying at times but at the same time it is very possible to make connections and find a home.

It’s that point that was brought home for me when I landed in Chicago a few weeks ago and as soon as I entered the terminal at Midway Airport, I saw a sea of faces that looked a like mine. For a moment my heart rejoiced but within an hour I was reminded again not all skinfolk is kinfolk as I stood in line for the bathroom and a woman who looked like me with a cellphone had a mouth so foul and believe me when it comes to cussing I can cuss with the best of them even I was bothered. It didn’t help that when our eyes met she gave me a look that chilled me, I would love to say that was a one time event but any illusions of connecting with the sistas went out the window. When I returned to Maine, I talked to a dear sista friend of mine who left Maine in the past year to be in a more diverse area and she confirmed that she too had had some of the experiences I had in Chicago on my brief trip. My girl had left Maine seeking to reconnect with Black folks for the sake of her own sanity and for that of her kids but realistically she had not found it though in her case she was close enough to her biological family that the move was still a good one.

There are places where Black folks connect and are good to one another, yet in many urban areas that is not the case, I am sad to say. Obviously there are a myriad of reasons for why our young are hell bent on destruction but coming from Chicago and being where I am now a place that while it lacks diversity and a few other things gives me a pace of life I do like. I think for now I am going to stay where I am until the wind blows me in a new direction.

19 thoughts on “Not all skinfolk is kinfolk…living in Maine while Black

  1. Let me go way back to a time when I was just a wee lass growing up in Chicago so you can get a sense of who I am. I grew up with two Black parents who raised their 2 kids to be Black. Yet I was that geeky kid who well to be honest was bookish, my cool factor was diminished in the eyes of my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members because we lived on Chicago’s northside and not in the hood. (considering my folks were Black hippies we were hardly living large, we were broke) I attended schools where in the early grades I was the only fly in the buttermilk to quote my Granny.

    Testify. I was nodding vigorously throughout this post. Amazing. I am so glad I found your blog.

  2. Hi! Me again- I just found your blog the other night. Maybe people are just looking at your beautiful braids and that you have an air of confidence that is attractive.
    We have to continually strive to treat each other as individuals and not stereotype each other. We were each made the way we were for a reason. I like embracing that.

  3. Good blog.

    I wished I would have not allowed myself to be swayed by other bp from going down your path, geekyness and all. You being in Maine was one of the reasons I decided stop and read your blog. Ever since I was a child I really wanted to live in a place like Connecticut…growing up I watched “The Bob Newhart Show” and he made Connecticut seem like a wonderful place to live just like Maine. I have 2 or 2 1/2 years left before I earned my degree who knows where I may end up living.

    • LOL!

      I live in CT.

      It aint that wonderful.

      Nearly as white at Maine, but all the black and brown ppl are concentrated in afew metro area’s. Hartford ( the state capital) has the honor of being the poorest ghetto in the ….wait for it…richest state in the USA.

      Damn.

      • Hi Asada:

        Thank you for your comments. You must decide that you too deserve better and move as quickly as possible. Yes, it is so unfortunate that the majority of bp live in undesirable areas, MOVE FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOUR CHILDREN. Save a little money here and there, it all adds up. Get yourself a roommate or two and move to a nicer neighborhood, yes it is just that simple.

  4. I feel ya on this post. I think it’s the same with other races. You put a few of one race together (or even gender or religion), and there’s more solidarity; put them all together and the in-fighting begins.

    However, I do think our problems are more extreme within the black community. Our identity has been raped and assaulted for centuries, from the minute our ancestors were kidnapped from Africa. The onset of television widened the gap b/c it showed us stereotypes, and life imitated art. That chilling look you described in the bathroom comes from the “I’ll fuck you up, ’cause I keep it real” mentality.

    I doubt that you’d experience that in most of Africa, at least the parts that haven’t been exposed to that kind of thinking – which ironically came from rappers bankrolled by rich white bigots who preferred promoting destructive black culture than the nice and easy, R&B of the ’60s and 70’s. Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Temptations, Aretha, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, etc. In this regard, 1990s and 2000s black culture is to some degree an invention of racism.

    And I don’t know if you grew up hearing the stories of how blacks were discouraged from going to the library by white folks, and before that, had to hide their intelligence from dumb rednecks who’d beat out their brains for “acting uppity”. We’re only two and three generations from that, and the message trickled down and got distorted to that being smart and speaking well was acting white.

    Well, that’s all.

  5. Kit, I totally agree with you. My Pops was raised in the south, hell his folks were sharecroppers, he recently did some tapes talking about his childhood and it was very much like what you said. He wanted to be a scientist and was straight up told for a colored boy that was never gonna happen. 🙁

    Your assessement about the look I got was exactly what it felt like. If I kept looking at her even with a smile my ass would have been boxing, plain and simple. Thank you for expanding on my thoughts. 😉

  6. LJ, I will admit that more days than not living in Maine I do strive to treat folks as individuals and not stereotypes. Early in my time here in Maine I learned to not stereoype (but I am human and stumble), I was up north at a crab shack and some bikers rode up and I was scared shitless being the only POC. Instead ended up meeting some real nice folks who were kind. But I do have days where I loose sight and its generally when things get messy.

    Ann, definitely visit New England. CT is in southern New England which has a different feel than Northern New England but you may like it. Its an adjustment but I do find those of us who move up here and choose to stay generally adjust well. Its not to say you won’t have a bad day but hell you can have a bad day anywhere.

  7. Kit- I am glad you brought this up- I am angry we have been robbed of real history of our founding. I learned about this author on Founders Fridays -http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Record-Straight-American-History/dp/1932225277 Not that any history really interested me when I was in school which is a shame in itself. My teachers were not story tellers though- just all about dates and bullet points.
    The show was really good- found it on youtube -pt 1 is linked to the right… here is pt2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY8o1I3jDUU&NR=1

    Oh and I hope you like this one- someone tweeted it tonight and I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it here. I would love to hear more gospel music like this.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/january-26-2007/african-american-jews/3594/ Great little clip.

  8. Snarky, I’ll make the assumption that you were born to genuine Jewish parent, not a convert, and if so, I can see why you’d feel the way you do.

    I watched the video. I enjoyed the music b/c I like about 40% of the gospel I hear and theirs was good, but I found this sect of blacks who converted to Judaism bizarre. To me it’s as nutty as Madonna’s conversion.

    Unless one was born to Jewish parent or marries a Jew, I just don’t get it, nor do I buy the line that Africans were the original Jews. Africa is five times the size of the US and most blacks came here from West Africa, not even northeast Africa. That’s a mighty long way from the Palestine/Israel area.

    It’s like, don’t these people have something better to do with their time? And why would one of those lady’s put her kid through racist rejection at school? She even said most Jewish sects reject Black Israelites.

    It’s just doesn’t seem authentic. It would be like me declaring I’m Chinese just because I want to be Chinese. I can be a Buddhist if I want, but I can’t be Asian. I don’t think this applies to Jewishness b/c they have the philosophy of it being inherited and found on one’s DNA.

    If I sound ignorant, or am ignorant about this, by all means, enlighten me.

  9. BlackGirlinMaine, are we related? I had the same experiences with certain ‘hood cousins’ who teased me relentlessly for talking white. In those early days, I tried me hand at the Ebonics they took so much pride in speaking, and failed miserably, thank the heavens. But I’ve had a certain satisfaction in know that this “Oreo” has been much better at navigating a multicultural worlds than other members of my family. In fact, like you, I’m content to leave them right where that are and get on with my life.

  10. I have always just been about good and bad people. Not the color of their skin. I grew up with potato farmers in Aroostook County. I have traveled the world to find out farmers are farmers no matter where you find them. They are just good hardworking people. I was blessed with a real childhood in Maine. I am grateful. I do recommend to more black people to give the Maine lifestyle a chance. It is peace and earth!

  11. My grandparents raised 14 kids. None of them ever went to jail or otherwise had brushes with the law.

    13 of them grew up and were productive members of society. The one who didn’t died when she was 14.

    All of them at one time or another recounted stories of being teased by their cousins. They say some of their aunts and uncles didn’t even want their kids to associate with them. Maybe it was that they worked a farm, or maybe it was something else their cousins didn’t like — but still, like I said, they grew up and were productive which is so much more than can be said for their cousins.

    To the larger point you make:

    I have a (black) friend who constantly remarks on my “love” for white people. I’ve come to understand that she does it more from a place of jealousy/admiration than from trying to make me feel self-conscious about it. She wishes she could relate to them the way she percieves I relate to them and so even in situations where I feel like it’s just 2 people who are friends relating to each other, it becomes about how much I love white people.

    I don’t care how much I tell her that white folks piss me off sometimes just like black folks, she sees it how she sees it. However, seeing it her way has enabled me to embrace an attitude of wanting good people around me, period.

    I love it when those good people are black, but these days I take my good people wherever I can find them.

  12. Yep sis..cuz of how we have been raised as well as the things I have been through.. all folk that share ya skin tone dont share your best interest. Many have called me dark and bitter for it… but I thank family members who did that to us… NOW.. i dont hold as much resentment simply because it can be poisonous but I am definitely NOT naive to the foolishness many perpetrate for the sake of saying they are yo “Brutha or Sista”

  13. Hello.
    I found this blog while researching diversity in Maine. At first, I laughed, finding its name and the banner with the fried bologna sandwhiches too hilarious for words.

    Then I started to read…

    Well, it seems the story of your life is very similar to the story of my life. I am from Detroit, and male, but everything else sounds so familiar it was like reading something I might have written.

    Bookmarking this one.

    Peace.

  14. Thank you for this! I felt like you were looking into the window of my life. Sigh. There is so much prejudice in the Black American community that it is tiring.

Comments are closed.