Maine Won't Tolerate Racism
Governor Paul LePage recently commented, “When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red... You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”
Though it should go without saying that a governor is unfit to govern once he has declared himself "at war" with 5% of the population because of their skin color (roughly 66,000 people in this state), we're going to say it anyway.
Paul LePage is very upset at the idea of being called racist. Of course he is. White fragility (the discomfort felt by white people when they are criticized for saying or doing something demeaning to people of color) is at an all-time high. But, if he doesn't have thick enough skin to tolerate having his actions criticized, he can't work effectively in a democracy, and therefore should resign.
Even a number of LePage’s Democrat counterparts are denying his racism, with comments from people like former council chairman Fred Stubbert who said, “I do not believe he is a racist, but my feeling is that the pressure is kind of getting to him.” It’s saddening and frustrating to learn that many politicians in the Maine government refuse to hold Governor LePage accountable for his racism.
Prejudice is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, in a way that makes one race seem inferior or superior to another. Those beliefs, plus power and privilege, is what makes up racism. In this case, the assertion that black and Hispanic people are more likely to be drug dealers than white people implies that white people are superior. That thought, plus the power and privilege of the governor, makes his comments racist.
White people, because of the historical context of race in the U.S, have been placed in a privileged class. This history traces back to the genocide of indigenous peoples on this continent, the legacy of slavery, and anti-immigrant sentiment. With the modern day land grab of the Penobscot River from the Penobscot people through the Penobscot Nation Vs. Janet Mills case, the mass incarceration of black people nationwide (13% of people in Maine’s prisons are people of color despite being only 5% of the population), and the recent attacks on general assistance directed at new Mainers, we see we have a lot of work to do to.
When the governor tells us that people of color and Hispanics are "the enemy" and reminds us in the same statement that in a war you "shoot at the enemy," that is racism, plain and simple. That comment encourages people to make assumptions and target people based on the color of their skin without knowing anything about the person they are looking at. It also is inviting police and Maine residents to racially profile black and brown people by suggesting they may be drug dealers just because of what they look like. According to Portland Press Herald’s article, ‘Time to move on’? Governor Lepage sends mixed signals about his future, “Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of people arrested for dealing all types of drugs in Maine are white…”
In a time when we are seeing videos of black people being shot and brutalized by police almost on a weekly basis, we understand the implications of racial profiling, racism, and the danger people of color face every day.
By calling Paul LePage’s comments racist we are not name calling or being spiteful, we are simply calling them what they are, and we are doing this because we want to fundamentally transform Maine and this country into a society that has racial justice at its core. We also call his comments racist because we have a lot of educational work to do in this state when local politicians of all parties are denying LePage’s racist comments such as Dana Sennett, Democrat, former council chairman and mayor who said, “I don’t think Paul’s a racist. I think he was trying to make reference to the fact that people of color were being arrested on drug charges. However, I don’t think he’s reviewed the facts. I just feel he’s bringing attention – that we have a drug problem, that these people were standing out because of color.” It’s not just Tea-party members and Republicans who are lending credibility to LePage’s racist statements.
We know that the words “racism” and “white supremacy” are really scary for many white people. People who feel good hearted in their intent don’t want to think they have acted racist, and to acknowledge that we are acting racist acknowledges that we need to give up some of our power and privilege to make way for racial justice. When we use these words we aren’t name calling and we aren’t demonizing people. We need to get comfortable with these words and how they operate so we can effectively talk about race and racism because we can’t stop it if we can’t talk about it.
This is a call to action to white people in Maine: we need to learn about racism and how it operates, and we need to make a plan to take action to stop it. Right now our action can be to put enormous pressure on Paul LePage to resign and for Democrats and Republicans alike to call LePage’s comments what they were: racist. We are in a movement moment, a time where we can be more effective in our work for racial justice, and Central Maine Showing up for Racial Justice is dedicated to trying our best to be in solidarity with the people of color in this state through our commitment to understanding our own complicity, and we issue this statement in order to be visible anti-racists and to be counted.
The people of Maine deserve a governor who neither voices nor acts on racist thoughts in the execution of their duties. We hope that all residents and members of every branch of government at the state and local level will join us in demanding that Governor LePage resign his office. We will not accept his racism and violence any longer.
Showing up for Racial Justice is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. There are three local chapters in Maine: Central Maine, Greater Portland, and the Mid-Coast area. We urge you to get involved:
Central Maine: Christine: 946.4478, email@example.com
Greater Portland: Becky: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mid-Coast area: Sara: email@example.com
If you do not have a chapter in your area and you would like to start one, please reach out to Christine from the Central Maine chapter. We can offer lots of support.
For collective liberation,
Central Maine Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
SURJ of the Mid-Coast
Greater Portland Showing up for Racial Justice
Bangor Racial and Economic Justice Coalition
Community Water Justice
Food AND Medicine
Health Equity Alliance
Justice, Ecology, Democracy (JED) Collective
Land in Common Community Land Trust
Land Peace Foundation
Maine Inside Out
Maine People’s Alliance
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
Maine Students for Climate Justice
Maine Transgender Lobby
Mid-Coast Queer Collective
Pax Christi Maine
Peace Action Maine
Pine Tree Youth Organizing
Resources for Organizing and Social Change
Southern Maine Workers Center
Suzanne Hedrick, member of the Maine Council of Churches
The Visible Community
Today: Central Maine SURJ is counting on you
Central Maine SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) needs your help with “Tell Maine Governor Paul LePage: We Won't Tolerate Racism”. Join Central Maine SURJ and 114 supporters today.