If there are so many hate groups in Maine, maybe this is who we are, Raymond Diamond writes.
Credit: George Danby / BDN

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Raymond Diamond of Portland graduated with a degree in criminal justice from Southern New Hampshire University.

“Portland feels like such a bubble from the rest of Maine.”

I hear this sentiment often, and I smile. However, I always internally question this. I question, because I fear that the social climates of Portland and Maine are not as innocuously innocent as some of us within the “social bubble” of Portland might like to believe.

I make this statement as one void of judgment or ill intent when I say that Maine is a very white state. This is neither inherently a bad thing nor is it necessarily a good thing. It simply is. However, a change of this status quo, that is Maine becoming less white, is not something that is by any means generally considered acceptable.

As many residents of Maine have noticed, there is an increasing population in Maine of immigrants seeking asylum who are being caringly welcomed by our state from living conditions we might not be able to comprehend abroad. Personally, I appreciate the fact that our state is working toward the end-goal of helping these individuals of desperate need. However, my opinion and perhaps your opinion is by no means a universal thought process.

Those who may utter the same statements indicating the accepting environment of Maine and the welcoming aura that we exude are the same folks who may show up, proudly puffing out our chests, declaring that white supremacy and bigotry have no place in Maine. This, unfortunately, is where we are demonstrably and fearfully incorrect.

Facing our truths is dastardly scarier when they are ugly and intimidating. Let me elaborate.

Most recently on Aug. 12, a group of neo-Nazis who appeared to belong to the white supremacist group the Nationalist Social Club (NSC-131) engaged in a protest in Augusta in front of the Capitol boldly bearing the sign, “Keep New England White.” In April, in downtown Portland the same group congregated for a protest, bearing a sign encouraging sympathizers to “Defend White Communities.” On bridges and highways throughout various parts of New England, there have been signs that have urged us and our fellow New Englanders to “Keep New England White.”

The gut reaction for many, particularly if Maine is somewhere that you have lived for your entire life is to profess that these are revolting, uncommon displays that are by no means representative of Maine as a whole. I challenge you to pause, while I surprisingly agree with you. Of course, these incidents are not indicative of the entirety of Maine. If 1.3 million Mainers all felt a similar kind of hatred, I could reasonably expect imminent bodily harm. I would be much more fearful than I currently am.

This portion of Mainers, however, is far too numerous.

These grandiose, public events are larger scale and publicized, and one may suspect and hope that NCS-131 and the vehemently antisemitic, white supremacist leader Christopher Pohlhaus with his land north of Bangor, bought specifically to house and host his “Blood Tribe,” are unique, red herring, one-offs. To Polhaus, those nonwhite people are a threat and are undesirable within the midst of Maine.

As of 2022 there were at least eight statewide hate groups in Maine identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center — white supremacist and otherwise — including but not limited to Asatru Folk Assembly, The Proud Boys, NSC-131, The Colchester Selection, the American State Assembly, The Patriot Front and more.

As unique, and prophetically accepting as our state must be, if there is no place for white supremacy in Maine, why are there so many of them throughout the beautiful, mostly rural state of Maine? What are we doing right, and more importantly, what on earth are we doing that is so, so wrong? If we do not want Maine to be a state that is a host to the parasite of hatred, how did we get here? Then, we pose: if possible, how do we move forward?