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Dear White Communities in Maine

I am going to be the bearer of bad news today. Normally, I am more of a “love-can-conquer-all-things” kind of guy. But today is not that day. Because I need to tell you: we have a lot of work to do. It is going to be painful and difficult. And it starts here:

America is (and always has been) a racist nation. It is a historical fact that our beautiful country, packed full of high ideals and virtue, was founded with the vile and corrupt racist idea of white supremacy at its very core. And that cancer is still wrapped around the very heart of our nation.

Does that make you angry or uncomfortable? Good. But pause. Don’t do anything. Yet. Because we, as white people, can get really mixed up here. Before you go any further, please take the following quiz:

QUESTION: Where is your anger and discomfort coming from? And where is it going? 

ANSWER #1: Is your anger and discomfort directed at me for what I said about racism and white supremacy? 

If so, Stop. The first step to address any problem is to acknowledge that it exists. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies: “The greatest trick racism and white supremacy ever played was convincing us that they did not exist.” It takes a mountain of denial to ignore the evidence of our racist past and present. That is the only way there can be so much violence and so little action. 

Are you really more mad at me for speaking the truth about racism in our country than you are about the racism itself? Because, if you are, that is just more evidence that what I said is true. That is, actually, exactly how structural racism and white supremacy work: Racism invites people to be more angry about naming the violence of racism than about the actual violence itself.

But I am reaching out to you with compassion, because there is a reason why denial and avoidance are so prevalent: they are both effective and satisfying. If we can ignore a problem – or even deny that it exists, we don’t have to deal with it. The only cost is our own humanity. 

So this is an invitation to move here:

ANSWER #2: Is your anger and discomfort directed at the actual racist violence that is all around us? 

Yes? Good. Welcome. We need that anger right now. We need to lean into our discomfort in order to move us to a place of deeper humanity, solidarity, and health. Because the truth is: a lack of anger and discomfort is complicity. 

Let us embrace the truth – and the pain – of the racism that is at the heart of our communities. Let us feel the anger and discomfort. Let us mourn the loss of our humanity that it causes. And let us move to action and repair. It is our responsibility. 

With love,

Phil

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