#BlackLivesMatter Comes to Maine

…and everyone’s talking about it. Eighteen people were arrested on July 15, 2016 for blocking Commercial Street in Portland, Maine. Responses have ranged from support to condemnation.

Chris Dixon blogs for the Bangor Daily News. He offered advice to the protesters: Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t block traffic.

I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable speaking for the dead. And too often people think the dead would agree with them. But the dead aren’t around to clarify that opinion.

Besides, non-violent protest (including protests led by Dr. King) is all about being disruptive in a way that harms no one. Of course, if you need to get to the ER then backed up traffic could cause harm.

Even some progressives say they support #BlackLivesMatter, just not the tactics. And conservatives, of course, passive-aggressively say all lives matter. Which misses the point that no one is saying anything to the contrary.

But let’s step back emotionally and look at this from a practical point of view. Portland sees protesters all the time. It’s so common I often take no notice. And rarely does a protest get media coverage.

But #BlackLivesMatter made the front page of the Portland Press Herald. Everyone’s talking about it. And that’s what the protesters want. In that sense, their strategy was a success.

All I can say is that I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable blocking traffic.

I’m no rightwinger. But I don’t identify as a progressive either. I don’t feel the need to pander to a political perspective that views me negatively because of my demographic profile. I call myself a fiscal moderate (pro-capitalism but with regulations for externalities and a modest social safety net), and a civil libertarian.

I’m just watching the conversation and trying to take it all in.

I don’t know much about #BlackLivesMatter. And I don’t what it’s like to be black. I haven’t been to Canada since 9-11, but before that (when I lived on the Ontario border) I went often. We used to joke about border officers. They were friendly. They’d ask if we had any guns or drugs. Even as a young man who hadn’t had a haircut in a year they never questioned my response, “No, sir.”

One day my neighbor asked me to take her to Canada. She promised her daughter they’d do the Christmas hayride in Hamilton, Ontario. But her car wouldn’t start.

At least by then I had gotten a haircut. But still, the border officer asked no questions. He just barked, “Get out of the car!”

We did. I asked my friend what was going on. Why would they suspect a man, a woman, and a child when they never suspected a car full of young men?

“Driving while black,” she said. “It’ll be okay. They’ll make a mess of your car and tell us to be on our way.”

And they did. And the kid enjoyed her hayride.


Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at thepaintedporch.net. He's also at twitter.com/Dave_DuBay.

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