As white as they come

Maine: The other white state
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  May 27, 2009

It seems to be Maine's turn again to be the least racially diverse state in the nation. Vermont, which alternates with Maine for this honor, came close to snagging the title again, with 95.2 percent of its population being white. But Maine scrappily edged it out with 95.3 percent.

Anyway, that's the story from updated US Census Bureau figures that were released in the middle of this month, which also saddled Maine with the title of oldest state in the union, with a median age of 42 compared to 36.8 nationwide. Just nine years ago, we were the fourth-oldest, so I guess the young'uns are continuing to flee our fair state as they come of age.

So, now that it's clear that Maine is still as white as they come, despite the fact I definitely notice more Blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, and others than when I moved here more than six years ago, what am I gonna do?

Stomp my feet?

Scream and shout?


Demand that Governor Baldacci import more people of color into the state?


Look, I knew this state was mighty white before I moved here. Demographics certainly don't change drastically overnight. Or over-decade, for that matter.

Besides, someplace has to have the distinction of being the least racially diverse.

But mixing up the races a bit isn't all that diversity is about. Some days, I'm happier to see more restaurants that don't serve fried seafood or pizza cropping up outside of Portland than I am to see another Black face. Or artsy shops that show that quirky artists live here alongside the folks who insist on painting watercolors of lighthouses or selling buoys and lobster traps as home décor options.

Keep in mind that while Maine may be the whitest state (and oldest), that doesn't make it some homogenous collection of socioeconomic and racial clones. In Maine, we have plenty of diversity, if we know where to look — and what to look for.

This whitest state in the country is also a state that solidly stood for voting a Black man into the Oval Office. Sure, there are racists here who hate the fact that an African-American holds the top job. I've seen many of them ranting and raving online. And yes, there are places in this state so conservative, white, and jingoistic that I generally avoid them. But the existence of those people doesn't make Maine a conservative bastion of blind and exclusionary white pride either. There are a diversity of political opinions here, and I'm amazed at the range of ideologies among protestors at Monument Square and even outside my local Hannaford. Neo-hippies, tea baggers, military cheerleaders, get-out-of-Iraq-now folks, and so many more.

Hell, we even have white rappers here in Portland — including one named Poverty. Sure, he's melanin-challenged, but he certainly isn't just a run-of-the-mill Maine resident. To be honest, I don't even know what a run-of-the-mill Maine resident would be. If you read Stephen King novels regularly and don't live here, you probably expect every other person to say "ayuh." I have to go pretty far north here to even hear many marked Maine accents, and even then plenty of folks would never say something like "You can't get they-ah from he-yah."

Diversity is all around us. Even in Maine.

Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached at

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