Pastor Jose Rodriquez holds a sign against systemic racism during a Poor People's Campaign assembly in downtown Jackson, Miss., Monday, April 19, 2021. Speakers addressed voter suppression, police violence, and a low minimum wage among the topics. The Campaign seeks to have the issues addressed at a national assembly later this year. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / AP

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I was disappointed to find that the focus of a recent BDN editorial, “Welcome to Maine, unless you’re racist,” was a single incident involving only two people, amongst a couple tourists, in a single small town in otherwise idyllic, culturally diverse and entirely racially tolerant, entirely “welcoming” state, to one and all. I think your readers would be better served by pieces addressing the much more severe, terrible and heart-breaking systemic racism present in our state, since before its founding and continuing nearly unabated today.

It was shortly after moving to Maine a few years ago that I learned it is the “whitest” state in our country — a higher percentage of white people than any other. I’d thought that curious at first, thinking it could be related to ancestral immigration patterns and settlings, or perhaps cultural biases against taking up residence in what can be, as we all know, a very wintery place. But I’ve learned that those had very little to do with our state’s whiteness. It has to do much more with the governance and political actions (or inactions) of this state, and the overtly, often blatantly, racist and segregationist men who created them. Even the position of an appointed city manager (of Portland), and not an elected mayor, has its roots in slavery, to give one very small example.

This history and its effects on our current racial and social inequities are well detailed in a podcast, “99 Years,” by Samuel James, I think your interested readers would benefit more from being alerted to the ongoing larger problem of long-standing systemic, institutionalized, and interwoven racism and cultural biases in our state, than from this single unfortunate episode, an episode that might be more likely to occur, it seems to me, on a background that’s all white than one containing many shades of skin color.

As crude as it may sound, perhaps the alleged offender in the story thought Maine was a place she could get away with it. For while a racial slur in a parking lot and its accompanying physical threat is unacceptable behavior and must be addressed, systemic racism is reprehensible, and intolerable for any conscious human, and needs to be corrected. I would like to see more articles and pieces reporting on the ongoing much, much bigger, critically important issues underlying the kind of small episodes the editorial highlighted, and explaining why it’s wrong. We all know why it’s wrong. It’s time to do something about it.    

John Mamon