The governor of Maine is an ignorant man. This is not news.

The man who said Tuesday that civil rights hero John Lewis should say “thank you” to white people for ending slavery is the same person who said last year that black drug dealers who impregnate “white girl(s)” were mainly responsible for the state’s opioid problem.

This is the same man who was in office for less than a month before telling the NAACP that it could “kiss my butt” if it didn’t like him skipping the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast.

We would like to ignore him, but we can’t. Even when he’s just running his mouth on talk radio, he’s our governor. We all suffer from guilt by association if we don’t speak up.

Gov. LePage takes great offense at being called racist because he claims to have no personal bias against people based on the color of their skin. We can’t know what’s in his heart, but we do have enough evidence to draw other conclusions from his repeated racially charged comments.

Racial prejudice is no small thing to be wrong about. It’s one of the fault lines of our society. Failing to build unity in a culturally diverse society is what will make or break this country. A public official who deepens the divide does damage to us all.


But the governor is consistently wrong about race and when he is confronted with it, he offers half-baked history lessons. As usual, in his telling, he’s the victim.

“The blacks, the NAACP (paint) all white people with one brush,” LePage said. “To say that every white American is a racist is an insult. The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”

If the NAACP said that all white people were racist they must have whispered it in LePage’s ear, because it’s not in any of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization’s public statements.

But the governor does not stop there. He goes on to suggest that living in a state that fought for the Union in the Civil War allows him to say with impunity whatever comes into his head.

He wants all white Northerners to get collective credit for the sacrifice made by civil rights workers like Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who were murdered while registering black voters in 1964, but he’s not willing to accept that there was any collective harm done to millions of African-Americans by 400 years of slavery, segregation and lynching.

There is no political cost in Maine to this type of wrongheadedness because, judging from their silence, most Maine Republicans and some Democrats and independents think he’s right. Still, the governor has once again embarrassed his state on a national stage.

You can expect there to be an economic price to pay by companies that are trying to recruit students and professionals to make Maine their home, or by economic development agencies trying to entice entrepreneurs to relocate.

But even that does not match the human cost that will be paid by ordinary Maine people, like an African-American mother who has to put her child to sleep at night knowing that her governor thinks he deserves “a simple thank you” from people like her because her baby is not in chains.

We’ll all be paying for his ignorance for a long time.

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