Is Sen. Collins right to believe there isn't systemic racism in Maine?


Fact Box

  • Protests against “police brutality and systemic racism” have erupted across the United States after the unfortunate death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. 
  • Wednesday, October 28, Senator Susan Collins stated, “I do not believe systemic racism is a problem in Maine.” 
  • According to the US Census Bureau, 94.4% of the population in Maine is White while 1.7% is Black.
  • Although the Black community makes up less than 2% of the population, more than 27% of the 2,710 coronavirus victims are Black. Local officials mentioned the reason as systemic racism.

Bill (Yes)

No evidence supports the assertion that systemic racism exists in Maine. It's a fallacy to conclude that unequal outcomes among minorities are a result of it. Minorities have equal access to public education; no race-based barriers or laws exist. Educational success differs widely among ethnic groups. For example, Asian students achieve bachelor's degrees at nearly twice the rate of Black students, showing there is no inherent bias against the educational attainment of minorities. 

Economic disparities among ethnic groups is often cited as evidence of systemic racism, but three key factors have been proven to improve anyone's socio-economic status:

  1. Earn a high school diploma.
  2. Get and keep a full-time job.
  3. Avoid out-of-wedlock childbirths.

Single mothers are nearly 6x more likely to be poor than married couples (34% to 6%). A troubling statistic for unwed births to Black women, broadly speaking, is 69.4%. By comparison, the rate for Asian women is 11.7%. Combine this with the disparity in college achievement (bachelor's degree holders earn 50% more than high school diploma holders), it's easy to see why Asians do demonstratively better economically than Blacks.

Finally, minority incarceration rates are also declared proof of systemic racism in our justice system, but people aren’t arbitrarily getting convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. Prison is the result of a deliberate act, a conscious decision to break society's laws. While Blacks account for only 1.7% of Maine's population, they account for 23% of Class A prison sentences. Compared to Asians, who comprise 1.3% of the population, they make less than 1% of Class A prison sentences. Many factors and disparities span across multiple groups for a multitude of reasons that can't simply be blame-shifted on 'systemic racism.'

Tyler (No)

Maine Senator Susan Collins displayed her privilege when she blindly claimed that her state's Black people don't suffer from institutional racism. Collins is completely unaware of the prejudice that hinders residents of her own state. Maine has one of the worst Black poverty rates in the whole United States. Half of Maine's Black residents live in poverty, almost double the national rates for the United States' Black citizens. Alain Nahimana of the Maine People's Alliance explained that while Maine's African-American citizens are well-educated, they can often not obtain high-paying jobs.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center determined that in a ten year period, Black residents were disproportionately charged with crimes compared to White residents. While Black people make up 1% of the state's population, they made up 12% of their prison sentences in 2018. Meagan Sway of the Civil Liberties Union of Maine's policy counsel stated that these convicted residents suffered from the fact that specific drug laws primarily targeted people who were not White.

Students at Bangor high school detailed that racism is 'part of their regular high school experience.' Isaiah Reid explained that racism plagued him since he was called a racial slur by a kindergartener in his elementary school lunchroom. Throughout the years, racism perturbed the students in different ways, with dress codes that enforced much more strict guidelines towards Black students than White students and a curriculum that sheltered Black students from their past while embracing European history.

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