Letter to the Editor: Are white people doing what’s needed?

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I very much appreciate Natalie Haberman Ladd’s Jan. 18 column (“Back to Birmingham”) that urges white people in Maine to go beyond a tip of the hat once a year to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a unique perspective, having grown up in the other whitest state in the country — Vermont — then spent eight wonderful years living in the freedom and diversity of San Francisco before returning East to Maine in the mid-1980s. I had expected attitudes to be less aware and more conservative when I arrived here, but was nonetheless shocked at how quickly a variety of racial slurs surfaced in everyday life among white collar professionals.

Since then, I have seen many examples of unconscious, racist behavior across the political spectrum. I’ll refrain from reciting the list, too long to publish as a letter to the editor.

The first step in actively opposing racist systems and behaviors, for white people, is self-examination. We cannot say “I’m not a racist,” and expect that to absolve and exempt us from responsibility to listen, learn and act. When groups like the Proud Boys and NSC-131 feel emboldened to spew their hate in public, when our media too often plays into harmful stereotypes and when most of us harbor the notion that anti-racism is an optional “extra” in our daily lives, then we must ask ourselves: are we doing what’s needed so that all our neighbors may feel safe and welcome here?

Jeffrey Hotchkiss


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