Attorney David Webbert authored this opinion article published in the Portland Press Herald on January 4, 2019.
Maine Voices: Legislature should condemn LePage’s legacy of racist diatribes
Gov. Janet Mills has vowed to chart a more inclusive path, but lawmakers must act as well to promote Maine as a dignified and accepting place.
AUGUSTA — In her inaugural address, Gov. Janet Mills eloquently reminded Mainers of our true values, including a deep appreciation for the benefits of diversity provided by “immigrants (and) people of color,” who all are “important members of the Maine family.” Maine’s new Legislature should fully support Mills in her mission to “change direction” for Maine by going on the record to condemn outgoing Gov. Paul LePage’s racist legacy. His many public pronouncements based on white supremacy and racial fear mongering – demonizing black men, declaring they’re coming here to kill us and impregnate our white women – hang over Maine’s reputation like a dark cloud.
LePage’s nationally publicized racist tirades – including his lies only two weeks ago on Maine Public Radio disparaging people of color – create the false, but damning, impression that we are a backward and racially prejudiced state. And his long record of racist commentary is driving away the talented and hardworking people of good character that we desperately need to power Maine’s economy forward.
When LePage repeatedly peddled untrue racial stereotypes and promoted violence against racial minorities, he fundamentally undermined our most important constitutional rule of law – equal protection and equal justice for people of all races – and the core Maine values that no one is better than anybody else and everyone is welcome here. LePage’s racist invectives have especially harmed the rule of law and appearance of justice in Maine because they were amplified by his unique bully pulpit as Maine’s twice-elected chief law enforcement officer.
Thus, it is a moral, legal and economic imperative that Maine’s Legislature vote for a joint resolution unequivocally condemning LePage’s nationally publicized, public declarations promoting white supremacy. Without an official rebuke, Le-Page’s racist legacy will leave a permanent stain on Maine’s reputation as an ideal place to raise moral children and a welcoming place for people of all races.
Here are the incontrovertible facts of LePage’s racist legacy: In January 2016, he proclaimed that black men come to Maine to sell heroin and “half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.” The same month, he said, “Load up and get rid of the drug dealers because folks, they’re killing our kids.” In February 2016, LePage declared, “I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state.”
In August 2016, LePage said that “black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers” and that “people of color or people of Hispanic origin” are “the enemy” and we must “shoot at the enemy.” He also falsely claimed proof in his three-ring binder that drug dealers arrested in Maine were over 90 percent “black and Hispanic people.” He further stated that “in fact, in almost every single picture (in the binder) is a white Maine girl” and that a pictured black man was “the other culprit.”
In 2016, LePage also scapegoated immigrant people of color for ruining Maine’s public health, falsely claiming that asylum seekers (mostly from Africa) were bringing hepatitis C, tuberculosis, AIDS, HIV and the “ziki fly.”
In August 2017, LePage declared “both sides” were wrong, equating Nazi white nationalists and the anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville. He also equated monuments to the Confederacy with memorials to the 9/11 victims and falsely claimed that 7,600 Maine farmers fought for the Confederacy when, in fact, about 30 Mainers in total fought for the Confederacy and 73,000fought for the Union.
On Dec. 20, LePage falsely claimed that black and Hispanic drug dealers make up “97 percent” of all drug dealers in Maine.
Now is the final opportunity for Maine’s Legislature to stand up for Maine’s hard-earned reputation as a decent and enlightened place and for the constitutional rule of law ensuring equal rights for people of all races. The Legislature routinely passes joint resolutions to express its opinions of commendation and condemnation about small and large issues of the day. It should not be a close call or a close vote to condemn, without qualification, LePage’s indisputable record of racist propaganda promoting white supremacy.