For the past eleven years, I have felt as if I were living in some type of social experiment. What happens when you take a Black woman from a very large, urban and diverse city and stick her in a small, rural and homogenous state? Does she assimilate? Does she lose it? What happens?
In many ways Maine has been a lesson in extreme personal growth for me, I have been forced to look outside of my own personal silo. Living here has been like my own private Outward Bound program. Many of my own assumptions about whiteness in America have been challenged, in many ways the mainstream media’s projection of whiteness is just as damaging to lower income whites as the media’s projections that Blacks are violent, fatherless, etc. Of course that is the problem with looking to the media in this current environment, what it often gives us is one sided and far from accurate.
I am pretty sure it will come as no surprise to anyone who is a regular reader of this space that I am actively exploring my options for a Maine escape. The state of Maine and I are engaged in a volatile love-hate relationship and despite how often it lulls me into believing it can change, I just don’t know that it is possible. Maine has taken quite a bit from me and really it just hasn’t given me what I need.
As I ponder about my future steps, I find myself thinking a great deal about the issue of diversity and what exactly does it mean? Prior to moving to Maine in 2002, it was a concept that I thought mostly of in the context of professional settings; but after 11 years in a decidedly un-diverse place, I think about it quite often.
Over the past several years, the area that I work and live in has experienced a slight racial shift. To native Mainers, they see a ton of diversity; to me I see the breadcrumbs of change. An Asian baker, a few gay business owners and a loudmouth Black lady are mere drops in the bucket from where I sit but to many people who I have come to know locally, they see it as signs of a shifting tide of change.
Earlier today, on the BGIM Facebook page, I posed the following questions: Diversity is a word that gets bandied around quite a bit, but what does it mean to you personally? Does it matter to you? How does the concept of diversity manifest in your daily life?
Personally it means having regular access to people from all walks of life; I have no interest in living in a melting pot because when we are forced to assimilate or meld together, it means we often lose something of value. Instead I want to live in a space where all are welcomed and accepted; where our individual richness is valued and not othered. I have had the honor of being partnered for the past 18 years to a man of French-Canadian-Luxembourgian descent, on the surface he appears to be just another American white guy but he is more than just a white man; just as I am more than a Black lady in America who currently resides in the state of Maine. However in spaces where diversity is not truly valued, I am not sure we get beyond those labels that say so much yet say so little.
So I ask you, what does diversity mean to you personally? Does it matter at all? How does the concept of diversity manifest in your daily life? Lastly do you live in a diverse area? Why or why not?
FYI: If you are planning on attending A Night with BGIM, there are 13 tickets left, details over here.