That’s right…I am a Black Girl in Maine

Its been a strange day. Today was the last day of girl child attending the program she has been in since she was 13 months old. When she started at the center, over 3 years ago I was teaching part-time and after having spent the first 13 months at home being a very attached parent, to say I was nervous about putting her in daycare was an understatement. Yet very quickly the lovely staff at the center became like extended members of our family, for months they held her while she fell asleep, dealt with cloth diapers, and never once seemed put off with my overbearing ways.

Needless to say in recent weeks it was one of the hardest decisions we made when we had to face the reality that our finances could no longer support girl child staying in their wonderful preschool program. Actually last year we couldn’t afford it but sacrified everything to keep her there in hopes that our work situations would pick up, instead after landing my position last fall, things got worse. A month ago it hit me that we could not continue to live so close to the bone. Yet for the past several weeks, I kept hoping somehow things would work out, that someone would contact either I or the Spousal Unit for a contract position but it didn’t happen.

So we awoke this morning once again reminding girl child that today was her last day, we sent notes to her closet buddies and hope that they take us up on our offer to have some playdates. Truly a sad moment though we may be able to volunteer a few times a month and girl child will be able to go and play with her friends. What is unique about this center is that for being located in Maine which is a really white state, there were other children of color there. In fact her class was about 40% non-white and her closet friend is also biracial. Due to the make up of the school, I have been insulated from the reality of how white Maine is and how that might impact girl child but tonight well…we got the wake up call.

After saying our good-byes this afternoon, we had to rush off to the open house at the new and affordable preschool she will be attending. The new preschool is actually affiliated with the daycare/preschool she has been attending since they are both part of the YMCA but the daycare is a full-time program that runs full days whereas the preschool is only a few hours a week and they are in separate locations. Demographically the folks who send their kids to the full-time program either work or are in school whereas the new program is generally kids who have never been in a program.

So we (that would be me, girl child and Spousal Unit) roll up to the open house, walk in and well lets just say it was um…interesting. Every kid and corresponding parental unit was white, ok its Maine, that’s not the end of the world I say to myself.

Well as I noticed parents glancing at us and not making eye contact I started to get a tad uncomfortable but what really has me writing a rare second post in a day is the fact that girl child being the outgoing character that she is walked over to another girl and started playing, the little girl looked tentative but the child’s Mama looked bothered. She actually at one point grabbed her kid and when I started talking to her looked like she really did not want to respond to me.

Thankfully girl child was oblivious and the woman did eventually allow her child to play with mine, but that scene has me disturbed to my core. As my child went to wander and play some more, I noticed the looks of the kids and parents and it took everything for me to not cry…the Spousal Unit saw the look on my face, the one that generally means I am about to lose my cool and get gutter. Thankfully I did not, instead I brushed it off and put on my best damn snooty voice and held my head high but tonight as I write this the tears fall. They fall as I remember every miserable fucking year I spent as the only Black kid in the class, that was hard enough but at least I went home and saw Black folks.

I cry tonight wondering about our future and how long we will be here, truth is unloading this house would take an act of God so leaving is not an option. It’s funny because tonight I am reminded that Maine is a really white place yet whiteness has so many levels. I generally operate in that space here where I am surrounded by more liberal open types who embrace diversity which while at times as its drawbacks, it generally means folks who if they have beef with me, it’s because I am an asshole and not because I am Black. On the flip side are those who have less exposure to folks from different backgrounds and like tonight it shows.

So I have no idea what the future holds though girl child was oblivious which is a blessing and wants to go back and I have cautiously agreed to try it next week while we explore our options. But tonight I am reminded that I am a Black Girl in Maine raising a Black girl and at times it’s a lonely road.

15 thoughts on “That’s right…I am a Black Girl in Maine”

  1. I have been in computer systems for 33 years in the New York City (Wall Street). Because of my advanced age, I moved from doing technical work to doing sales and consulting about 6 years ago. My company often sent me to offices of prospective customers, and up until last year most of them were financials. I remember time and time again going to these nice, expensive offices and seeing all these mostly young people sitting in front of computers, working the market.
    I can say that in those 5 years, I saw no black faces whatever. Blacks were in reception, maybe computer support, or in other non-visible positions. They were never in positions of power, control or decision making. You don’t need to go to a “white” state to see america.

  2. SistainME:

    That’s a painful story to read. I remember the first time I was confronted with my “differentness.” I was 12 and my mother wanted to put me in a summer sports camp. I was reluctant as I was a shy kid around new people and had no exp outside my church and the private school I went to.
    Anyway. So every Thurs the camp went swimming at the state pool (MA thing). So I see one of the camp counselors who was this large neanderthal looking high school kid nicknamed Tank sitting on a picnic table with a group of kids flocked around him. I don’t know why but I wandered over. Instantly I felt every single eye on me. I was paralyzed. That’s when Tank called me a nigger and told me to get outta here. I complied and walked away and felt small and lonely. I made it though and so will Isis. You won’t be able to shield her forever as I know you are well aware. All you can do is let her know how much you love her and just how special she truly is. That helps to counteract any negativity she may encounter in the future.
    I like that you’re thinking of homeschooling. Wifey and I are thinking about it as well. A very good friend of mine is originally from York, ME. She was homeschooled until high school. She is a very well-adjusted, intelligent product of her parents love and attention and happens to be a great writer as well.
    Wifey and I have discussed relocating. Maine is on the list for some of the reasons you love it. It is a beautiful place.
    My first adult love was black chic from NJ. Her freshman year she was roomed with a girl from ME. This poor child was so clueless she would go up to my girl with her eyes wide and ask if she could touch her braids! Many a time did I have to hold my girl back! LOL
    That poor girl had never seen black folk before she came down here for school. Sad that that exists in this day but it goes to show you there is no such thing as a post-racial America and Obama didn’t change a thing.
    It begins with your daughter, you, myself showing what a true black or Hispanic is like. That we aren’t really different from them.

    Humanity is born. Culture is given. Tolerance is learned.

    God bless.

  3. Funny, that’s one of the reasons why my family moved from Vermont when I was eleven. My mom was concerned about whether or not I’d find dates and what not. Moving to NC didn’t really improve my romantic life, but it probably would have been social hell for me if we lived in VT during my teenage years.

  4. Oh Shay, this broke my heart. I don’t know how you did it, you were strong in that situation, and your daughter will gain strength from you too. I am so naive at times, I’m either totally oblivious to situations, or I take it too far–I see myself taking my little girl’s hand and getting the hell outta there, never looking back. I really hope it works out in the end. I read your blog and I have been warned about ME, but I feel drawn there too, the same way I feel about moving to Duluth, MN. There’s a calmness that I long for and see in those places, a feeling that I will be taken based on my merit and character, not my skin color, but then I snapped back to the reality of a black woman trying to raise my black child and this place doesn’t exist for us..at least not 24/7.

  5. I’m sorry *hugs*

    I know you will be able to find a solution. Maine is a beautiful state and there is so much to love about it…please don’t be discouraged by that painful incident.

    Racism is everywhere. I grew up in one of the most “diverse” cities in the US and I’ve been subjected to hatred since childhood. It doesn’t matter where you are, because racism runs very deeply all over the world and especially in this country.

    I hope you will stay in Maine. It is overwhelmingly white, but you will meet many people who will love you and your daughter. The woman who pulled her little girl away from I was simply ignorant. That kind of behavior can be very hurtful to a child’s self-image, i.e., making her feel inferior.

    I’ve been trying to convince my husband to move to Maine. I’m biracial and he’s white. I fell in love with Maine when I visited on my honeymoon this year. I agree, it is gorgeous. The tranquility is out of this world. I’m jealous of you being able to live there. 🙂

    We passed through Skowhegan and stopped in a bookstore. Some women stared at me and I felt a bit awkward, but it was no big deal. No one said or did anything to make me feel uncomfortable. A woman in the bathroom at Tim Horton’s stared at me too, but not in a bad way. I believe she was intrigued by my Southern accent.

    I hope to make Maine my home someday. I hope your daughter will find acceptance, love, friendships and happiness. Remember to always let her know how much you love her…that will eliminate the sting of any further encounters she may have.

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