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.