I dislike having to continue to talk about my state’s governor, Paul LePage, because he’s not going to change, the legislature is probably going to continue to not really act against him in a substantive way (though they may end up surprising us), and to malign him is to preach to the choir for much of Maine’s population (and to spit into the wind when it comes to the less-than-half of Mainers who truly support him…let’s not forget he didn’t win by a majority of the vote in either of his elections).
Well, in a way it’s not really LePage I’m talking about. He’s more an avatar of a problem I’d like to address: People’s continuing reluctance to call out his (and others’) racism and to deflect from the fact he’s a toxic bigot. And, in so doing…over and over…those who do so show their own anti-Black (and anti-Muslim, and anti-lots-of-other-things) biases and bigotry, however subtle or deeply hidden they may be.
When LePage talked about his binder of dealers and left a profanity-laden voicemail message for a Maine legislator (Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook) whom he thought had called him a racist, there were legislators and other citizens of the state who cried out that LePage was showing himself unfit to hold the governor’s office because of his actions.
Except the actions that people called him out on—the actions that really set them off and made them feel he was unfit—were being insulting to a white legislator and, as some maintained, that some of LePage’s remarks showed him to be homophobic. Precious few people were focusing on the fact that LePage had just accused non-white people, particularly Black and Latinx people, of being the enemy. Accusing them, in denial of all the statistics that say most drug traffickers are white, of being the source of drugs in Maine and of impregnating white girls before they leave.
He did it before now, though perhaps in less dramatic a fashion, as he didn’t paint Black and Brown people as military-style enemies who presumably should be dealt with violently back then—at least not as obviously. But he’s said multiple times how non-white people are the problem. And not just with regard to drugs. He’s blamed African immigrants for disease in this state as well as accusing them of being financial leeches. He’s gone so far as to blame them for diseases that are carried by insects and not people.
In Boston on August 29, just after the latest “binder of dealers” brouhaha, he doubled down and said: “The heroin-fentanyl arrests are not white people. They’re Hispanic and they’re black and they’re from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, Waterbury, Connecticut the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
Never mind that FBI stats say fewer than 15 percent of drug traffickers arrested in Maine are Black or Brown. Are we to believe less than a fifth of the traffickers are responsible for all of the heroin and fentanyl in the state?
Since the very start of his first term after the 2010 election, LePage has worn his bigotry openly on his sleeve.
Now many people want to say he’s having a breakdown or that he’s lapsed into booze. Hell, I’ve said as much with regard to the latter, but not the way I think most people are. I just think he drank too much the day he called Gattine and let his true self spill out even more. Most people want to attribute his latest comments and actions to a breakdown or to alcoholism. They make out like he’s just gone over the deep end.
But he’s always been over the deep end. He’s always been steeped in a white supremacy, bigot-minded world of his own. And it’s not, in my opinion, because of any illness of his mind or weakness for liquor. It’s because he was evil from the start, and he’s still evil now.
Except that people aren’t focusing enough on the fact that he’s always spouted racist filth and is just doing so more boldly now.
To attribute his actions now to anything but willful ignorance and vileness when he’s shown us what he is from the beginning is to distract from how racist he is and how much his words invigorate other racists and help contribute to an insidious creep in the minds of anyone who’s not racist but is “just” biased. Because we all have biases and, when it comes to Black and Brown people and the threat they supposedly pose, those biases run deep in most white people everywhere. Anything that deflects from the sheer evil of LePage’s words is one more chance for the idea that Black and Brown people are a threat to seep into more minds, even ones that consider themselves open and progressive.
LePage may be having a breakdown. He might be hitting the sauce. But all that is irrelevant.
Because he’s always been a racist, and the majority of Maine (and the nation) has turned a blind eye to that fact from the start. Some have pointed out he’s racist, but not the majority of his detractors. They’re too often afraid to use the word “racist.” Even Gattine stressed that he didn’t recall calling LePage a racist but rather said his remarks were racially insensitive. From my standpoint, Gattine should have said, “I don’t think I called the governor a racist exactly, but now that I think about it, I really should have.”
Not nearly enough people have said what needs to be said, and no one should let him get out from under the fact that he is a racist, through and through. And if you haven’t recognized that before now, there might be a chance you are too…or that you are at risk of becoming one.
I’d rather that this moment in time be the eye-opening one that lets people truly admit what they’ve been to afraid to say all along.
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