As bad as Gov. LePage’s statement Wednesday night was about drug dealers with names like “D-Money” and “Shifty” who, he said, come to Maine from New York and Connecticut and “half the time they impregnate a young, white girl,” his news conference addressing the remark Friday was even worse.

During the over-20-minute event, LePage refused to apologize for what he said, instead blaming the media and “left-leaning blogs.”

He refused to acknowledge that expressing fears of “young, white” women being impregnated by “these types of guys” was even racist.

“I made one word slip up,” LePage said. “Instead of saying Maine women, I said white women, and I’m not going to apologize to Maine women for that, because if you go to Maine, you’ll see that we’re essentially 95 percent white.”

“Maine is essentially all white. I really should have said Maine women,” LePage said when pressed by a reporter. “It wasn’t intended to be race, it was intended to be Maine.”

When asked about his use of street names and the obvious implication that he was speaking about black men, LePage claimed he didn’t know if “D-Money, Smoothie (and) Shifty” were “white, black or Asian.”

This is ludicrous.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I will because LePage seems to be making the assumption that we’re all idiots: There’s no reason to say “white girl” except to emphasize a racial contrast with “these types of guys.”

This kind of sexualized racism is one of the deepest and most troubling aspects of our nation’s struggle with issues of race. It’s not something that can be easily dismissed, even if LePage had deigned to apologize for it.

From the murders by the Ku Klux Klan, who considered themselves defenders of white female virtue, to Emmett Till, who was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman, to the shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year, where the white killer declared, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go” before opening fire, this deeply ingrained racist and sexist attitude has often prompted fatal violence.

Further, the admission that LePage thinks of the state he governs as “essentially all white” to such a degree that in his mind “white” is a synonym for “Maine” is in itself fundamentally disturbing. Basically, his excuse for making a racist remark is that he’s so racist he didn’t even realize what he was saying was wrong.

Maine is not all white. There are individuals and thriving communities of color throughout our state, and, in addition to the simple imperative to treat all people with basic dignity, every economic forecast shows we need to increase diversity and immigration if we’re going to survive some difficult demographic trends.

Neither is the heroin epidemic in Maine a matter that can be reduced to racist and sexist stereotypes. The vast majority of traffickers and users in Maine are white, including three alleged traffickers (two of them women) arrested in Jefferson the night before LePage made his remarks.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with a series of recent racist and bigoted comments by Maine Republican lawmakers over the past few months, neither LePage’s comments nor his non-apology has been met with condemnation from Republican officeholders or party officials. In fact, some are even defending what he said.

“I’m struggling to find out which part of the Governor’s statements people would be offended by,” said Maine House Republican staffer Ryan Lorrain on Twitter. “Sounds to me that this is more of a manufactured outrage.”

“When I see a twenty-something black guy decked out in bling grocery-shopping with a chubby white girl in Bangor, my educated guess is that he’s a drug dealer from New York, and she’s a native Mainer welfare queen,” wrote state Rep. Lawrence Lockman on the As Maine Goes message board. “The Guv’s remarks about drug dealers will play well in the real Maine, while simultaneously making progressive & RINO heads explode. It’s a beautiful thing.”

We shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for an apology from them or from Gov. LePage, but neither should we let ourselves become inured to these kinds of comments.

The fact that none of the reporters at the event Wednesday immediately understood LePage’s remark to be problematic is perhaps an indication of how little we now expect from our chief executive and how entrenched racism has become in our politics. We shouldn’t accept that, and we should never allow him to say these kinds of things as leader of our state without raising our own voices in opposition.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @miketipping


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