If my friend were alive today, here’s how our conversation about LePage and race would go

Some readers know that I lost my best friend a few years ago. We talked almost every day, and it’s hard to lose a vital part of your daily routine. Things happen — things that make me think, I wish I could talk to Cobby right now.

If he were still here, I’d have been insisting on a sit down, face-to-face visit after last week. I so wish I could hear his perspective on the awful things coming out of our governor’s mouth, most recently, mocking a Chinese contact’s name by saying it while fake sneezing.

I’ve pictured how the visit would have gone. I’d have done my usual knock at the kitchen door before opening it, letting myself in, and yelling, “It’s only me.” My friend would have been waiting in the living room with a cup of tea.

Between shutting the door behind me, kicking off my shoes, and walking the 20 or so feet into the living room, I would have said:

“Dude, so our governor is talking about white girls getting knocked up, shooting people, black drug dealers, Chinese businessmen with names like sneezes — and our legislature is doing nothing!”

Winter State House file photo. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

Winter State House file photo. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

By then I would have reached the living room and plunked my butt on the recliner, still ranting.

“Sure, Mark Eves lost a job that he maybe shouldn’t have gotten, and they act like LePage should be tried at the Hague for crimes against humanity. LePage says stuff that runs shivers up the spines of any non-white who hears them — the freaking majority of the world’s population — and they’re silent.”

He would have chuckled then. To get another chuckle, I would have said:

“And they think it’s okay because he’s got a black person in his family. Well, I’ve got white relatives. Does that make it okay for me to talk down to white people? No, it doesn’t.”

He would have laughed again, and I would have continued:

“Like what don’t they get? Can they name the current governor of Alabama? Probably not. Anyone heard of George Wallace? Thirty years later, he’s the name people associate with Alabama. That’s how long it will take Maine to erase this stain if we don’t make a formal statement of some kind — I mean, it’s like we’ve re-animated Wallace for $#@! sake.

“How can Maine compete in a global economy with trade agreements crippling our manufacturing sector and a governor alienating majorities of the world’s population?”

Of course, had the diatribe happened in real life, there’d be a lot more expletives involved, much to my friend’s amusement. We’ve had variations of race conversations before, so I’m pretty sure I know what he’d say back. Most likely he’d say that he already told me Maine would face a challenge when more black people came to live here. He’d say he’d warned me that it would get harder when black people appeared in news stories as perpetrators of crimes.

Like editing out my expletives, I’m paraphrasing a bit on what he’d say — he’d be using the “n” word and quoting his grandfather, and all sorts of other politically and socially incorrect things.

It’s true — he warned me that Maine would soon face a test. He worried that as soon as a couple black people committed crimes in Maine, some Mainers would quickly forget that most crimes in Maine are and will continue for quite some time to be committed by white people. He worried that good people who know better would be inclined to remain silent should such a shift happen.

He said there’d come a time when Mainers would have to rethink their understanding of white privilege, and it would be uncomfortable because our state has long enjoyed the luxury of avoiding such discomfort. He hoped Mainers would rise to the occasion because that is what makes our state so great — our sense of community, our deeply rooted values and morals, and sense of right and wrong.

I hope so, too. And I wish he were here to talk to as it all unfolds.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.