In what amounts to the biggest “congratulations, you played yourself” moment of 2016 so far, Maine Governor Paul LePage recently at a town hall meeting insinuated that young black men with names like “Smoothie,” “Shifty,” and “D-Money” are coming from Connecticut and New York to sell their heroin, go back home and occasionally impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.
A day before LePage went on his tirade, though, something happened that put gaping holes in his claims of menacing black heroin dealers named after cold, blended drinks. In Maine, three white people, two of which happened to be women, were arrested for trafficking 39 grams of heroin. Also found on them were a handgun and $5,000 in cash. What this shows is that LePage was looking for any excuse to engage in dog whistle politics. He was trying to cultivate a black boogie man for white Maine residents even when the facts showed the exact opposite of his claims. LePage had to do some gargantuan digging if he was gonna get out of this one.
I expected the typical outrage, think pieces, half-hearted apology and repeat cycle to resurface yet again. But despite the obvious indication that he was referencing black heroin dealers with his remarks, LePage continually doubled down on said remarks. He tried to weasel out of taking responsibility for his words by saying his statements were a slight slip of the tongue, and blaming the media for making his racially charged statements racially charged. What LePage does not seem to understand though is that the media did not put the racial charge in his statements. LePage himself did a great job of that with no help from the media.
LePage claimed that he was not implying anything race related when he said what he said. But the specific mention of white girls juxtaposes them with a race other than white, making what he said blatantly race related. He also claimed that he didn’t think there was anything wrong with saying young, white girls because Maine is 95 percent white. But if he was thinking about the demographics of Maine when he made the statement, there would have been no need to even mention the fact that these women were white because it was common knowledge that these women were the clear majority. LePage obviously is referring to race when he made those statements, and it’s very disturbing that he neither owned up to this fact nor did he think what he said was wrong.
LePage’s apology is just another example of some whites blaming others for their own racism, and one of the more prominent examples at that. You’ve seen it before. Some conservatives say Obama has somehow made race relations worse, but can’t really name any specific examples of why this is the case. Some of these people really think that talking about racism makes someone racist. They somehow think that pointing out racist people makes race relations worse. The problem with that logic is that we should be pointing these people out. An unfortunate byproduct of this seems to be that people get more defensive, but only because they are being outed as racists. That is exactly what LePage’s press conference sounded like.
This seems to be a common go-to tactic for a lot of people who get accused of racist things. I understand that no one wants to be accused of being racist, but at some point you just have to stop blaming others for how you feel towards another race and do something about those feelings. Maybe talk to a couple of black people every now and then. Maybe some therapy would work. Really, anything would work besides deflecting your racism onto the very people that you are being racist towards. How about just talking to them to understand why they’re calling you racist instead of muddying the conversation with reactionary claims of reverse racism?
I imagine if more conversations like that took place, we will actually get closer to alleviating a lot of the racial tension in this country.