Dear anonymous woman who left a message on my voicemail: You didn’t leave a call-back number, so I decided to reach you this way.

Some people say there is no racism in Maine. I would challenge them to listen to the 4 minutes and 39 seconds of hate that you spewed into your telephone after my last column.

You aren’t the first person I’ve heard say these things, but you seemed to be the most comfortable saying them to a stranger.

The phrases tripped off your tongue, suggesting it’s not the first time you have said them. I imagine that you travel in circles in which what you say is normal, so this column is as much for your associates as for you.

You might recall that you were responding to a piece I wrote about Cynthia, a Portland High School senior whose family was temporarily homeless because their landlord was worried they would lose their General Assistance rent voucher. The crisis was caused by the LePage administration, which is withholding funds to Portland and other cities earmarked for asylum-seeking immigrants.

This young woman was going to school full time, working a job on the weekends and helping to take care of her two younger siblings. She’s also learning English and preparing to attend college, where she would study nursing.

To me she sounds like everything you would want from a young person in our community, but I guess she doesn’t meet your standards because of where she’s from – Africa.

“We don’t want them here,” you said. “We want our Maine to be what it was and what it will become because we are going to end all of this immigration.”

You return to this theme repeatedly. I take the risk of offending readers by quoting you directly so there will be no mistake regarding what it is about the immigrants you oppose – their dark skin.

“We don’t want savages among our midst,” you said. “Look at our own native Africans, look at all the money that was poured into Baltimore and look what they did.”

You then ask an interesting question of me: “What is your background?”

Actually, it’s none of your business, but in this case I’m glad to tell you.

My father landed in this country as a penniless immigrant in 1949. At the time, his brother-in-law, who was also his best friend, was being tortured in a communist prison back home. My father’s sisters also had been thrown in prison. If he had written a letter home to tell his mother that he was all right, she probably would have been thrown in prison, too.

Ten years after he landed, he was married, held a Ph.D. from Columbia University and had a family on the way.

His success was a result of talent, hard work and opportunity, but he also got a lot of help. I never once heard him say anything about closing the door on other people who were trying to reach America so they could have the same chances he did.

You then raised the question of who controls immigration in this country.

“We don’t need to have Angus King telling us who can come to this country,” you said. “And we don’t need people like you telling us who can come to this country.”

On this point, I think we can agree. Angus King does not get to decide who can come to this country, and neither do I.

But fortunately, you don’t get to decide, either.

We don’t have to be afraid of people smart enough, brave enough and tough enough to go halfway around the world to make a life for themselves in a new country. I do worry about having too many small-minded people like you who want to turn back the clock to a time when there was only freedom for some and racial minorities were excluded from the American dream.

I am praying that Cynthia finishes school, becomes a nurse and helps people (maybe even you).

I expect that she will have more to say about what kind of future Maine has than you and I ever will.

Because of a reporting error by me, my last column (“Pain spreads among immigrants as LePage’s GA policies take hold,” May 6) mischaracterized the struggle between the state and the city of Portland over General Assistance payments. I should have said that the state is withholding some, but not all, of the reimbursements requested by the city.


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