The goal is in sight, but the content needs reader support…your support

Dear Readers,

The first five months of 2019 have personally been quite a journey and a testament to the power of how our voices can make a difference. When I created this site back in 2008, I never could have imagined that this space would be a part of taking my work and voice beyond Maine and Northern New England.

Not only has it done that, but it has served as an incubator for new and emerging writers of color in the region as several of our earlier contributors have moved onto other opportunities including one who has a book in the works. Yay, Samara!

I am constantly looking to bring on new contributors with a racial analysis and story that I believe can benefit the larger readership. Which is why, despite our focus on working with writers of color, we have two white contributors: Average White Guy and Heather Denkmire. Two white people who are personally committed to doing better as white people, understanding that they will never be woke enough, because they are white and will forever be works in progress when it comes to their own liberation from whiteness and white supremacy.

As awareness of how white supremacy is embedded into the fabric of this nation continues to grow, our readership grows. Sadly, what has not grown is the revenue to fully sustain this site, along with the podcast which is now on permanent hiatus until we are fully funded. It costs money and time to work with a podcast producer as well as the scheduling of guests, something that with my work schedule (which involves 8-12 days per month of travel) was becoming a logistical nightmare. We currently have contributing writers, an editor, and myself, along with the related costs to run this site and pay for my time which includes covering our subscription costs as well as time spent daily posting resources and articles on social media.

The thing is, as I wrote in February of this year: How exactly does one make money from blogging or really any type of digital writing? In reality, the average writer is making very little as consumers have come to expect a steady stream of content to be available at no cost to them. I say this not just as a blogger but as one who was partnered for 20 years to a journalist. An ole-school J-school grad, who has watched his own fortunes dry up. The days of writing for a buck or two per word have gone the way of the landline telephone.

In today’s world, asking readers to support the work that they value has become the norm. Sites like Patreon are no longer an anomaly but a reality if you are a content creator, otherwise there is simply no way else to have the work covered.

I announced in February that I was moving much of the content that we provide on this site to Patreon but after hearing the feedback from many of you, I decided to shelve that idea for the time being. I grew up poor/working class, I recognize that many people may truly not have a spare $5 or $10 a month but truly wants to be able to access the information. However, to keep the site accessible to not have to put much of my content behind a “paywall” requires that those who can afford to become a patron do so. It’s a form of class solidarity and it’s important.

Right now, we are 134 patrons away from being fully funded. To put that in perspective, I need 134 people to commit to a minimum monthly gift of $5 either via Patreon or Paypal. In February, we were 200 patrons away, so we are making progress. Thank you.

That said, every month, we have fluctuations as people cancel pledges or pledges don’t go through. This month, we had a higher than usual number of pledges that didn’t go through. Which means even if you can’t commit to a monthly pledge, a one-time gift is also helpful as they allow us to make up the difference on a month like this.

Look, my day job is running a small non-profit, I know that you are bombarded with almost daily requests for support. Yet if this space has added value to your life, I am asking you to let us know by making a one-time gift or monthly pledge. Theoretically, no amount is too small, though to be honest, because of money taken off the top before I ever see your pledges or donations or tips, anything under a buck really is too little, as I will only literally get loose change in the end. But in the end, what I am saying is that modest support—especially by enough people—is just as welcome as large donations or pledges. And perhaps more so if enough people step up with modest pledges and tips.

As always, thank you for your support and keep fighting! Fight as if your lives depend on it. Because, for many of us, they really do.

In solidarity,

Shay aka Black Girl in Maine

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Calling All White People, Part 34: Racism isn’t a wrap yet

Calling All White People, Part 34

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Calling for the after-party before you’ve even wrapped up filming  

[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

So, let’s get straight to the point: actor and activist of various causes Alyssa Milano said some stupid stuff on Twitter recently. And then in the process of what very briefly looked like a breakthrough learning moment dug herself a deeper hole. To be precise, this is what it looked like:

And of course there was much retweeting and commenting and dragging across the Internet, much of it sadly well-deserved, but you can find that on your own.

Let me be clear: I’m not anti-Milano. She’s problematic in many ways when it comes to social causes and activism, to be sure. She made a splash putting the “Me Too” movement in the spotlight starting a couple year ago, but got criticism for seeming to take credit for starting it and not giving recognition to the woman who did, Tarana Burke. Also, in response to the recent abortion-ban laws being passed in more and more states, she called for a sex strike by women to spur men to repeal these laws, which has met with criticism on many levels. That said, I’m glad to see any person, celebrity or not, embrace notions of justice, decency, equality and more. And she isn’t the first person (nor will she be the last) to have a lot of exuberance but too little actual knowledge of an issue and too little critical thinking regarding actual solutions to pressing societal problems.

In other words, I’m not here to crow about how Milano screwed it all up again. But, to be honest, she is…well…she is pretty much progressive white people in a nutshell. She’s a symbol of our failure.

No, not all progressive white people are clueless and/or unwilling to actually give up any of the privilege/power they enjoy just by being white. But I think it’s safe to say that the majority of white people who express outrage over things like KKK rallies in modern times or police killing unarmed Black people for no good reason or wondering how Trump got elected are pretty clueless.

I mean, really, look at how many of us in liberal/progressive circles say things like “I don’t recognize my country anymore” or “this isn’t America” or “I thought we were past this.” Social media is filled with this kind of thing and any of us white people who know better need to do more correcting of our fellow white people who apparently don’t. Because this country—much of this world, in fact—is built on foundations of white colonialism/conquest/oppression. The very brick and mortar of Western society is largely made up of the blood and bones of people of color. And despite lofty ideals in constitutions and elsewhere, place like the United States really don’t extend justice and equality and opportunity equally to non-white people.

But Milano literally did the “greatest hits” of white cluelessness in her tweets—she played the hell out of the role of being all of us white people who have failed at being truly progressive on racial matters. She started with “I don’t recognize my country anymore.” Then she was made aware of the fact the country has always been this way, acknowledged her privilege and how she was sheltered from seeing how racist the country has always been—and then dropped the ball just as she was headed in the general direction of revelation. She brought out the “colorblind” thing, even if she didn’t actually say, “I don’t see color.” Because she talked about the diverse and inclusive sets she’s worked on. I’m not saying there weren’t people of color on the sets she worked on. I’m not saying she didn’t have any good relationships with people of color. But what show has she been on that shows anything but whiteness, whiteness, whiteness? Is Who’s the Boss? a beacon of diversity? How?

But then the finale: She expressed hope that we had gotten past racism and suggested the election of a Black president somehow signaled this achievement.

And again, I’m not slamming Milano herself. We are her; she is us.

We white people who often say we want a society free of racism talk a lot about not being able to believe how much racism still exists or not being able to understand how racism could become so mainstream again. We like to talk about the people of color in our workplaces or our families or our “Black friend” to “explain” how we are enlightened and/or unable to notice racism all around us. We ignore all the relatives we share holidays with who share Fox News propaganda. We dutifully gloss over the fact that our first Black president received constant accusations and abuse in the public sphere because of his race and that racial violence rose in response to him becoming president. We express shock that the KKK is marching openly even though we have literal Nazis and Nazi sympathizers on television arguing their points and being treated like just another “alternate view.”

Look, to continue on the theme of Alyssa Milano and celebrity-activist ignorance I can say the problem here is that white Americans, even the most well-meaning ones, are quick to yell “cut” when they don’t even have a fully workable scene. They are quick to wrap up production and send everyone home without actually having finished filming. America and so many other nations are, racially speaking, poorly produced and badly edited shows. We white people get one strong scene that speaks to the horrors of racism or the dignity of people of color and then start planning the after-party.

Racism went nowhere. There has been no solution. Our biggest progress has been to not openly enslave Black people anymore but instead to let most of them appear to be free while doing everything possible to hold them back and to covertly enslave “only” a large fraction of their population through law enforcement tactics and racially skewed incarceration. As far as progress goes, that isn’t very impressive.

If the progress we think is going to end racism is a Black president and a few more other non-white politicians or another wealthy person or color or two—and we’re going to sigh gratefully and say “It’s over now”—then we will never make a dent in racism, especially not for the Black and Indigenous People who have been victimized non-stop since the earliest days of this nation and before it even was a nation.

The fact is, despite her tweet saying otherwise, Milano did “miss racism.” It went completely past her in any substantive way. And likely still is. But she’s not alone. Let’s all start paying attention while we maybe—MAYBE—still have time to create something better. And let’s get moving; we’re already way behind schedule on this production.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Raising kids of color in very white places

For the last several years of my marriage, while we never doubted  that there was love between us, we were uncomfortably aware that there was something deeply amiss in our relationship. We spent our last few years together doing everything in our power to keep the relationship going until it became painfully obvious that love was not enough and that, on many levels, we were deeply mismatched as a romantic unit. That revelation, while painful, allowed us to end our romantic coupling and transition into our coparenting relationship with little of the anger and animosity that is often present when couples split up. Despite our differences, my former life partner and coparent remains one of my favorite people.

I find myself thinking about the end of that relationship and the clarity and strength it took for us to make that decision as I ponder the realities of raising a Black girl—now 13 years old—in a very white state. I must admit that I am wondering if raising Black children in such spaces is not borderline abusive. Is living in these spaces, even as an adult, a form of self-harm?

By the time I was 13, I had already had Black teachers; it’s almost 40 years later and I still remember my second grade teacher—the first teacher I knew who shared my race. By the time I was 13, several of my best friends were, like me, also Black girls with Southern roots and  working-class backgrounds. While I attended racially integrated schools, our home and family spaces were Black. I never had to struggle to see myself represented in my immediate life.

My weekends were rich experiences that involved shopping, living and loving with people who looked like me. I did not have to explain my family’s ways of being and have my friends inquire about why my parents were so strict.  While I had to code switch, and most certainly had awkward moments especially in my teen years, my existence and reality was so much more than being Black because I did not have to fight to exist. I simply existed.

In my 17 years here in Maine, I have seen Black folks and other people of color come and go. In many cases, the realities of always having to think about race and the energy of living that reality takes its toll.

My daughter will be wrapping up her middle school career in one of Maine’s most diverse schools, never having had Black friends or any non-white teachers. Despite me being her mother and my work around race, her external experiences are shaped by whiteness. We live in a state where our numbers are so few that we are reduced to simply being People of Color. No, we are not just people of color, we are  Black people and specifically, we are the descendants of enslaved Africans.

My Facebook feed is filled with the painful struggles that so many  twenty-something Black Mainers endure in their day-to-day lives, from racial slurs at work to the realities of dating while Black in a white state. I fear that our entire lives in this space are shaped by race.

In a country built on white supremacy, race will always matter but true wellness requires a more expansive view of ourselves beyond our race. Yet if leaving the house becomes an act of war that requires donning our mental shields and armor, what are the long-term implications? It’s not healthy to be in battle mode every time we leave the house and yet it is the reality for many.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being a keynote panelist at the New England Grassroots Environment Fund Root Skill conference which was held in Brattleboro, Vermont. The panel was racially diverse, so I was not the only non-white panelist. We were asked what we love about our communities—we all shared that we loved the natural beauty of New England and the overall feeling but for the panelists of color, the realities of being non-white  in these white spaces is never far away.

The thing is, after 17 years, I can say that there are some real changes happening. When I started writing about race in 2003 for the now defunct Portland Phoenix, I had to tread lightly and often my pieces were watered down and yet, I still received death threats for daring to name race.

In recent weeks, Maine has done away with Columbus Day and become one of fewer than 10 states in the nation to do so and replace it with Indigenous People Day. Maine’s governor just signed a bill banning Indigenous mascots within public schools. Conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion are becoming more commonplace across sectors and with individuals. And yet the day-to-day realities of living here as a non-white person, for all the progress, remains fraught, tense and downright uncomfortable at times.

It’s a place where microaggressions are as common as the morning coffee even with allies, and where I fear that for too many allies, anti-racism work is an academic activity that resides in the head and not the heart. A place where few white people are interested in giving up any privilege but are happy to show up at the rally and be a fierce online advocate. But in real life? Disrupt the status quo? Less so.

So for each step forward, it is still a half step back, meaning that the process of change will take a very long time. In the meantime, what becomes of the Black people and other people of color living here? Do we pack up and leave because it’s too much or do we stay? Do we raise our children here or do we take them away from the beauty of the state and all the joys of Maine because whiteness is toxic and—while we can never escape the toxicity of whiteness in this culture—at least being in spaces where we exist in greater numbers can provide some protection from the more virulent forms of white toxicity?

If only I had the answer…

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Meghan Schiereck from Unsplash