As Portland faces the challenge of simultaneously meeting the needs of current residents and accommodating asylum seekers, we must guard against deep-set habits and biases.

I’ve been privy to two neighborhood conversations recently in which white people expressed resentment that African immigrants were getting things, in one case, community garden plots, and in the other, apartments.

White people tend to get nervous when they see black people getting things. Having been steeped and socialized in white supremacy culture, we have a habit of seeing white people as more deserving. As Portland becomes more diverse, there will be more people of color getting things. The increase reflects our changing demographics, not so-called “reverse racism.”

Some will use Portland’s budget challenge as cover for their racism while others will unconsciously fall into habits of white supremacy.

Instead of turning on our new neighbors, we would be smarter to push for reversal of former Gov. Paul LePage’s cuts to state revenue sharing and public assistance to asylum seekers and for the state to fully fund its share of our school budget. The state should compensate Portland as it struggles almost single-handedly to address statewide problems like homelessness and the opioid epidemic.

With President Trump’s announcement that he’s planning to send asylum seekers to sanctuary cities without also sending federal aid to help the cities handle the influx, there should be no doubt that Republicans will continue their divide-and-conquer tactics to win elections.

Manufactured fiscal crises and scarcity rhetoric are being used to foment racial resentment.

As a nation, we have the resources. As the oldest state in the nation, Maine is demographically doomed without immigrants. Our workforce and Social Security system needs them. If not for the moral value in welcoming asylum seekers, then recognize the economic reality that we need them as much as they need us.

Lisa Morris

Portland


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