Considering that one of my paying gigs involves writing about diversity in Maine, it was with great interest that I listened to the findings that were released from the Census Bureau yesterday about the state of Maine. It seems that between 2000 and 2010 Maine’s Black population increased by 132%! In real numbers that means for a state that has a population of roughly 1.33 million folks total, 15, 700 are Black folks or 1.2% of the state’s total population…yikes! That means damn it, I am not the only Black Girl in Maine. Good thing I bought this domain before one of the other Black Girls in Maine decides she wants to get in on this blogging game.
Seriously, I know for readers in more diverse areas those numbers look pathetic but it means in my nine years here there has been some growth. Am I surprised? Nope. When I first moved to Maine, I could go days not seeing another brown face unless I was in Portland, our state’s largest city. I also figured that when went from one Black hair shop in Southern Maine, to 3 including the Black barber there had to be more Black folks here to support 2 salons and 1 barber. Ya know us Black folks we take our coifs quite seriously and I not really kidding.
Practically speaking? It still sucks and frankly as white woman I met recently through a mutual friend who lives here yet is from San Francisco said to me, frankly what passes for diversity in Maine is really just tokenism. After all despite being able to go into our largest city and see folks of color the truth is the average Mainer still has very little real racial diversity in their life. Going and seeing folks of color occasionally in passing don’t really amount to much if deeper connections are not being made. And frankly most of us still have a lot more work to do on that level, yet the numbers give me hope for the future.
First these numbers and the greater demographics of Blacks in the US showed that Blacks who after the great migration were generally found in large urban hubs are starting to realize that the US is larger than New York, Chicago, DC, Detroit and other larger urban areas where we have typically been found. Seems more and more Blacks are actually leaving the urban hubs, granted plenty of us are staying. Yet for many to leave the comfort of large urban areas to move south or heaven forbid to states like Maine in many ways shows some racial maturity among us. For too long we stayed clustered in relative safe havens like Chicago and New York yet now we are branching out across this country realizing shit, life can and does exist outside the urban hubs.
One of the beauties of social media is that I have met other Black Girls residing in states that until recently the idea of seeing Black folks would have been met with a black stare. Interestingly enough we all grapple with the same issues, we like the newer places yet at the same time sometimes that lack of diversity threatens to drive us mad at times yet we normally get away and come back and it works out. (Or if you are me, you are on the fence just waiting to figure it all out or a winning Powerball ticket that will allow me to keep my Maine home and perhaps get a condo in a big city)
Seriously while I am heartened to see the increasing diversity, its only one of many steps needed to change this nation from a melting pot which is frankly gross since sometimes throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot to simmer produces something nasty and inedible. While transforming into a large mixed salad might yield something far healthier and tastier for us all.