The “real sad thing” about Gov. LePage’s latest racist remark
What’s the saddest part of the governor’s January 6th comments about Maine’s heroin epidemic?
In case you missed it, Paul LePage, who in 2011 used the occasion of Martin Luther King Day to tell the NAACP to kiss his butt, actually managed to top himself this week. “These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” our governor quipped. “They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue that we got to deal with down the road.”
Let’s take the statement one line at a time, shall we?
“D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty.” I’m just a small town professor from Southern California, but I think this is meant to represent his honor’s inability to understand urban people and their funny names. But perhaps not; I don’t really get the governor’s sense of humor.
I’m clearer about what comes next though: “They,” the first word of the second sentence. I’m pretty sure “they,” “these guys,” the heroin dealers LePage is talking about, isn’t a reference to the people who actually do sell heroin in Maine. The people who sell heroin in Maine are primarily white, and have names like James, Jody, and Donna. And yet, somehow, the governor, giggling about “D-Money,” insists he is talking about Maine’s heroin epidemic.
That, in and of itself, is sad. The governor has threatened to veto bipartisan legislation promising funding to deal with drug addiction and even opposed the use of Narcan by EMTs to save people from overdose. So, we know that he’s an enemy of the people who suffer from drug addiction, but we didn’t know that he’s such an ardent supporter of the dealers who are killing the addicted that he’ll lie about their identities, provide cover for them. “Oh, that white fella? I’m sure he’s beyond suspicion. I’m pretty sure the dealer is one of those boys from… Connecticut. If you know what I mean.”
“Half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”
That’s old, familiar language. Every semester, in one of my introductory political science courses, I show scenes from D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, “Birth of a Nation,” a racist Civil War fantasy with a “happy ending” in which the Ku Klux Klan holds guns on African Americans to keep them away from the ballot box. In one scene, emancipated slaves have surrounded a white family in a log cabin and, when things appear lost, the men prepare to kill their daughters. When we talk about the film later, most of my students don’t know what to make of that scene. They, thank God, don’t leap, as our governor does, to the old narrative of protecting “young, white girls” from “the fate worse than death.” Governor LePage, however, has resurrected the old hate stories that kept the Maine crosses burning back in the aftermath of “Birth.”
But even that isn’t the saddest part of his little speech.
The saddest part comes, just like in an old melodrama, at the end.
After LePage’s imagined impregnation of Maine’s young white girls, he tells us, “we have another issue that we got to deal with down the road,” and that’s “a real sad thing.”
It’s that “issue … down the road,” that breaks your heart as you watch the governor smirk. It is the actual Maine children whose lives have been effected by actual poverty, and the actual heroin epidemic, rather than the caricatures of his overheated imagination, who haunt you while you watch the gubernatorial stand-up routine.
Those “real sad things,” have been forced to survive the consequences of LePage’s fantasies for five years, and now they’ve become one more punch-line, and a racist punch-line at that, in the disgraceful performance of our leading elected official.
Contrary to LePage’s favorite political fairy tales, Maine’s multiracial children are not evidence of crime, and Maine’s children in poverty aren’t the result of EBT card millionaires, or an insufficient work ethic.
They are the victims of our governor’s hateful fantasies, his cheap jokes, and his policies on drugs and poverty. And he’s our governor, so they – those “sad issues down the road,” our children – are our victims too.
You don’t have to be as appalled at LePage’s ku klux clowning as I am; but if you are concerned about the butts of his jokes, the “real sad things” he imagines as the residue of a black heroin epidemic, then you don’t have to wait for the next gubernatorial election. Contact your state legislators, or local food banks, or your friends and neighbors. Please don’t let that “real sad thing” in the governor’s mansion have the last laugh.
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