Our state should not elect a governor who thinks Black and brown people are nothing but drug dealers who impregnate white women. Former Gov. Paul LePage is in the gubernatorial race next year, but his previous racist remarks while he was still a governor rings in our heads. Those of us hurt by his remarks are continuing to recover from the traumas of last summer when George Floyd was murdered by the police. Now that LePage is back in the race, his remarks bring back the traumas.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

Mainers stood with us shoulder to shoulder on rallies across the state last year demanding justice and safety and, most importantly, fighting for a state that can give us the same rights and protection as those of the white Maine communities. If LePage returns to office, we believe he will continue to hurt us because his own history shows us he does not care about the Black, brown and immigrant communities who call Maine home.

I remember coming to Maine for the first time as an immigrant during LePage’s second term. It was terrifying listening to his remarks attacking journalists and going after asylum-seekers. In one of his remarks, he said he believed asylum-seekers were bringing the Zika virus, which clearly shows he does not care much about understanding the struggles these people go through. I did not expect a governor to be hurting the most vulnerable in his state, and I wanted a leader who could understand their circumstances.

The former governor has not publicly apologized for his racist remarks; we think he still believes that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities are a threat, bringing drugs and diseases into Maine.

And who knows what Maine’s Proud Boys might be thinking? His return to Maine politics can be encouragement for attacks and more hate towards BIPOC communities. Maine’s racial reckoning of last year came also with some Proud Boys gathering around Portland.  Clearly, there is growing racism in our state, as much as we try to work on issues related to racism.

In the meantime, our current governor, Janet Mills, had spared some time to sit down and listen to the BIPOC communities and involve herself in actions to make Maine more welcoming and open to all. Nothing makes us more at home than the words “Welcome Home” on signs as we enter Maine from road trips. This is what our state should be: a place we can feel safe and that allows us to pursue our American dreams. We can’t have a governor who thinks I am bringing drugs into Maine if I have a dark skin or coming to impregnate a white woman. The state, the country and the world are a different place now. And I believe a person like Paul LePage has no place in this new era.

No one knows what could happen in 2022, but if LePage comes back as the governor, we don’t think we have a place in this state. And having him in office may hinder efforts to tackle racism and ongoing racial justice across the state.

We believe the former governor will still see the Black and brown communities as he did in his first and second term in office. What Mainers need today is to start working to stop LePage from becoming Maine governor again. The way we can do that is to organize ourselves as we did in the presidential election of 2020 and encourage communities to come out and vote as if their lives depend on it. We need to continue to heal and move Maine forward towards embracing each other.

Comments are not available on this story.