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Call 'em like I see 'em

Diverse-City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  July 21, 2010

 I know there's a contingent of people among my readers who think I'm kind of a race-baiter or that I'm some high-and-mighty Black woman berating Whites for all evil that befalls folks of color.

Truth is, I call 'em like I see 'em. Racist acts can be done by anyone, even sensitive progressive types. They're not exclusive to rabid racists like the late George Wallace — and if it tastes racist, smells racist, feels racist, and looks racist, I'm going to label it racist. Today, I'm going to call "racist" on a couple of people.

One of them's a candidate for Congress. The other one is me.

I don't think you saw that second one coming. As for the first one, I doubt many faithful Phoenix readers support him, but perhaps his more rabid followers will find this column, repost it on the Web, and get to hating on me.

We'll start on me first, though. Back in late spring, I was getting my toenails done, and it's a scene that is, for Maine, reasonably diverse, as there were Asians (albeit all of them staff) in the sea of White female faces. Of course, this means I still pretty much stand out, with dark brown skin and seven long black braids hanging down my back.

One patron at the salon kept looking at me. I don't like being stared at, and a lifetime of experience has taught me that if someone is looking at me long and hard, they probably don't like my skin tone. I assumed the woman had an issue with my race, and I probably gave her some pretty stank looks. In the end, though, despite what was probably a highly defensive and sour posture on my part, she came over to introduce herself, and I discovered she was a recent transplant into the world of Maine, and looking for advice on a place to get her biracial kid's hair done.

I felt pretty crappy about my assumptions, and probably for making myself pretty unapproachable. So, racism on my part, assuming that pale and looking my way equals antagonism. I made a stupid assumption based on color, and I made up for it with apologetic friendliness, and offering some other advice for getting around Maine and settling into life here.

So, that's me. What about Dean? Dean Scontras, that is, whose recent action I am labeling racist.

I decided to check out the more stripped-down La Kermesse festival in Biddeford this year, and was partaking of the bean supper there with my husband and 5-year-old, when Scontras, who had his "I'm gonna fight the deficit if I beat Chellie Pingree but I can't reveal my secret for getting this country on the right track" van in the parking lot, and was making the rounds, glad-handing.

He made his way through the bean supper crowd, not only shaking hands but sharing his political views and stands (including telling one avowed Democrat that Pingree "isn't really a Democrat; she's a progressive" — whatever that's supposed to mean). He came up behind me, after addressing everyone else near me, and walked right on by me. No comment, no handshake, no nothing. He then worked his way through the entire bean supper crowd before I saw someone near him kind of glance my way and, I think, suggest that he make time for the minority woman.

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