Maine’s taxpayer funded Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations (PCRITP) sponsored a hyper-woke webinar Tuesday night on “problematic” place names in Maine.
“I know that white supremacist belief systems have shaped every turn in this state’s history,” said Erika Arthur, , a project coordinator at the University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute. “As a white settler person, I feel grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge these truths. And I take them as motivation to recommit each day to collaboration toward a world where all beings can thrive.”
The event was hosted by Arthur and Meadow Dibble, founders of the Atlantic Black Box (ABB) non-profit.
“We empower communities throughout the place long referred to as ‘New England’ to research, reveal, and begin reckoning with the region’s role in colonization, the slave trade, and the global economy of enslavement,” says the ABB’s website.
House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) was scheduled to speak at the event, but she skipped the event without providing an explanation.
After a lengthy introduction by Arthur, who listed her pronouns as “she/they” and asked everyone to acknowledge the suffering caused by “white settler people,” Dibble gave the webinar’s main presentation.
The presentation, which lasted roughly 30 minutes, was the ultimate result of a $132,804 contract given by the taxpayer funded racial equity commission to ABB.
The presentation consisted mainly of Dibble pointing out various place names in Maine, and explaining why people should find them offensive and why they should be changed.
She criticized the name of the state itself, claiming that the Wabanaki natives called the state “Dawnland,” and took aim at Maine counties named after Founding Fathers, such as Washington, Franklin, and Hancock counties.
“Franklin County was named after founder Benjamin Franklin, who was an active participant in the slave trade and an enslaver before becoming an abolitionist,” said Dibble.
Franklin, who served as the President of the Philadelphia Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage (sometimes referred to as the Abolition Society) from 1787 until his death in 1790, remains problematic for the equity consultants.
Dibble highlighted a variety of places named after white historical figures, which she believes ought to be changed.
Even places named after Native Americans were deemed offensive because they were named by white men allegedly seeking to mock the natives.
Dibble also suggested that some names in the state denigrate women or “sexualize the landscape,” giving the example of Old Maid Rock.
She did not elaborate further, but said that the topic could be another whole presentation.
Perhaps Maine taxpayers will have to fund another $130k contract to study the offensive history of Old Maid Rock.
Many places in the state bearing the word “negro” such as “Negro Island” were heavily criticized, despite being re-named to “negro” in the 1970’s when the n-word was by law required to be removed from all place names in the state.
Dibble also took aim at the numerous places in Northern Maine that are designated by alphanumeric codes, which she believes are named for the sake of resource exploitation.
“Maine is full of the soulless quantifiers that have served to parcel out land to timber barons. And I just want to contrast those numerical names designed to facilitate resource extraction with Dawnland,” said Dibble.
The rest of the speakers echoed the points made in Dibble’s presentation.
Maine State Geologist Steve Dickson spoke about his need to use old “offensive” topographical maps in his work, which still reflect old names which have already been changed.
Jessica Lambert, a member of the federal Wilderness Society and an advocate for changing names federally, tried to illustrate harm done by “offensive” place names, citing her reluctance to go to any place with an insensitive name.
“I’ll be looking on Google Maps and see like a name that I’m like, that’s suspicious or oh, that’s derogatory. And I don’t want to go there. I don’t feel comfortable going there,” said Lambert.
The speakers spent some time discussing the upcoming bill, LD 1667, which would establish a State Names Authority, which would facilitate the change of names deemed offensive.
LD 1667 enshrines racial discrimination in the law, requiring members of the State Names Authority to be of particular races.
At least one member of the proposed government entity must, according to the bill, would have to be a member of a Native American tribe and one member must be black.
The racially discriminatory bill will be presented on January 23rd.