How not to have a Black friend

Cross cultural relationships can be a wonderful thing; hell I think they are so wonderful that I married a white guy! Honestly though, there are times when cross cultural relationships can be landmines where one party says or does something that is so outrageous that frankly it endangers the relationship. In honor of Black History Month and a speaking engagement I have tomorrow on Maine’s Public Radio Station (MPBN)  where I along with several others will be discussing what it means to be Black in Maine, today’s post feels quite timely.

I have spoken many times about my greatest challenge of living in Maine, my inability to make friends. No, not acquaintances, friends; people that I really feel I can reach out to if I am in need of a fellow human. The sad truth is I have made very few friends in my decade here and that will probably be the reason I eventually leave Maine. Living here is pretty damn lonely.

Admittedly Mainers appear to be very private people who while pleasant enough, just don’t welcome newcomers into their midst. I get it, I really do. Yet what about the others who like me are from away? Well, I find that too many times, well-meaning people inevitably say or do something that reminds me that they have little experience with people of difference and at this stage in my life; I don’t want to be anyone’s Black friend. Sorry. I did that in high school and I am not doing it again.

In the past several months, there have been signs that this blogging/writing thing might have some real growth potential for being something other than my private thought dump. Obviously, I have been excited, hell; writing has always been a dream of mine. Now I admit maybe I have been too eager to share good news with my” friends”, but isn’t that what we do? We share our ups and downs with friends. On more than one occasion, I have been met with responses that frankly left me shaking my head. People who are really sweet and nice who truly believe they are open minded and that they really aren’t bigots have basically told me “I guess being Black is working well for you.” The implication being that I am a talentless hack and the only reason that anyone pays any attention to anything I am saying is because I am Black. The first time it happened, I brushed it off and gave the person the benefit of the doubt but after a few more very similar exchanges, my spidey sense was alerted.

Hold up! Are you implying that the only reason that I have received any opportunities is because I am Black? Are you actually taking out the much talked about race card and using it on me?  Do you even know what you are saying?

This may seem like a funny conversation considering that the name of this space is ‘Black Girl in Maine’ but that is what I am. Yet what many people who have only known me a few years don’t know is that prior to the realization that I needed to move to Maine, I was in the process of applying to graduate school to with the goal of earning a Ph.D. in African-American studies. That’s what I studied at the undergraduate level and it was only after physically moving to Maine and after I had applied to several graduate programs in the Boston area and was accepted that I realized that distance wise there was no way I could go to an intense graduate program two states over. So, I went to career choice number two which considering that I had already been working in the non-profit sector and I made lemonade out of lemons. When life throws a roadblock up, you either plan out a new route or go back home and going back wasn’t an option.

My passion for African-American studies has never waned and for me to find myself occasionally serving as one of the voices of Black Maine while odd (after all, I am not from Maine, I just live here) is something that I am happy to do.

However to have it implied that it’s only my Blackness that has helped things along is silly at best and quite insulting at worse.  For starters there are 17,000 other Black people in Maine and we are not a monolith and to imply otherwise is to show one’s ignorance. Black folks in Maine are pretty damn diverse; there are Black Mainers with deep roots and history in Maine such as the Talbots. There are the many immigrants and refugees from a variety of African countries who have chosen to make Maine their home and a slew of folks like myself from all over who have chosen to make Maine home.  In this moment, my voice may be one of the Black voices heard often but I don’t speak for anyone other than myself at the end of the day.

Talk of race is always hard but the walls of that great “ism” known as racism will never be broken down if we allow ourselves to hold to stereotypes and assumptions.  If we allow our eyes to never be opened and go back to our comfortable and familiar space that may actually be offensive to others, we can be assured that nothing will change in our personal world…and if you know me, you probably won’t be on my friend list no matter what you tell yourself.

Note: I apologize if my tone comes across as harsh, but I don’t apologize for how I feel. No one likes to feel that they are being othered or seen as less than.

Visit the way way back machine, maybe Joe is right!

Vice president Joe Biden is that uncle that stays saying dumb shit, but while it may come out all wrong, the truth is crazy Uncle Joe might be telling some truth. Joe Biden’s latest gaffe involved telling  a group that included a fair number of African American’s that Romney’s banking policies would “put y’all back in chains”. Well a Romney-Ryan world wouldn’t be too good for most of us working stiff’s and one could argue that financial insecurity is a form of bondage. Anyway Uncle Joe, you know if you go around saying shit like that folks will get mad, so don’t do that.

I leave with you a clip today from one of my favorite films, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. Food for thought.

Race card… whose really playing it?

Can I just saying I am starting to get really bored by the current election season, its like damn lets just get to November and vote already. Seriously, it seems like this shit has just being going on and on, so much that honestly I have lost a bit of my enthusiasm especially once my man Obama got the nomination and started acting a little strange. That said, I sure as hell ain’t voting for crazy ass McGrampy so unless some real nasty shit comes out about my man Obama, he’s got my vote.

That said, I woke up this morning as I do most mornings listening to NPR and heard the latest in this long crazy trip known as an election season, seems McGramps said Obama played the race card from the bottom of the deck… dayum, he played it from the bottom? For real? Thankfully being NPR, they then played a snippet of what Obama said and well in quick paraphrasing he essentially said that there are some who would tell you I am scary because I don’t look like the other cats who have ran for president, my name is funny, yada, yada.. Um, tell me something I don’t know… shit, how many emails have gone out this year basically saying because the man’s name is Barack Hussein Obama he is a Muslim and ya know them Muslims are scary. Come on, didn’t Hillary herself use coded racial language, like hard working folks aka white folks.

I must admit that after I heard the story, I laughed, shit was funny until I stopped to think about something that I went through last year where I was accused of playing the race card. Long story short, I was teaching at a school where I was only 1 of 2 teachers with an advanced degree, I was the only person of color and after being promised a ft gig with benefits after being worked like a Hebrew slave, I was let go, given some bullshit ass reason. Well turned out a sista was the lowest paid instructor at that joint despite having more education than only one other person, well as you can imagine, my Chicago side came out when I was being let go and I called bullshit. Anyway I was told I was playing the race card, former boss lady got all red in the face and huffy when I said basically I had been screwed and was pissed, of course by throwing in the ole race card, she threw me off my game for a minute. The end is not really relevant since I have been blessed since leaving that shit-hole ass job.

My point though is that incident coupled with many others have revealed to me that it seems when white folks get uncomfortable with Black folks especially us loud mouth ones who won’t back the fuck down, we are accused of using the ole race card. However it seems to me if anything its them using the race card, seems when you are white, you can tell a person of color especially a Black person they are using the race card and it will prevent said white person from taking a look at themselves and taking personal responsibility about a situation.

Call me crazy, but by the rules many whites seem to live under that is definitely playing the race card and playing it from the bottom. No, McCain is feeling bitter and clinging to outdated ideas, so its better to attack Obama on bullshit than to create his own real platform.

McGrampy, shame on you for playing the race card, by the way is that the Amex Black card you have?