Racism without Racists?
August 26, 2016
Posted in Politics
Maine’s governor Paul LePage recently said that 90% of Maine’s drug dealers were black or Hispanic. When a state legislator said that such statements contributed to racism LePage responded by leaving an expletive filled voicemail message that he was not a racist and had instead devoted his whole life to helping black people. First things first. I don’t know the actual statistics or indeed if anyone is keeping them. LePage says that he has been keeping a scrapbook of pictures of drug dealer arrests mentioned in the media and they are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. I guess the idea that the media is an accurate gauge and that they did not just publish such pictures because they were racially profiling or because it was rare enough to be of interest (maybe pictures of white drug dealers would have been so common as to lack interest.) I lived in Maine for over thirty years and LePage’s statement fails the eye test. There were so few people of color that if every black and Hispanic person I ever saw was a drug dealer there still were not enough of them to comprise 90% of the drug dealers in Maine. The state legislator’s comment was that such statements as LePage’s did not serve to help stem the epidemic of drug overdoses in Maine but rather only stirred up racial animosity. The only statistics that I could find in a quick internet search were that nationally 48% of drug dealer convictions were white and 46% of the convictions were of blacks. Admittedly this seems high but is probably the result of a racially biased judicial system. Although this measures drug dealing convictions rather than drug dealing itself there is no reason why Maine, one of the whitest states in the Union, would be as far off the mean as LePage says.
LePage’s response was typically crude, coarse and unhelpful. The legislator did not call him a racist but only said that his comments stirred up racism. LePage’s personal history includes the fact that he has “adopted” the black young man who caddied for him when he vacationed in Jamaica and has paid for him to attend college in the United States. I put adopted in quotes because LePage has not officially adopted Devon Raymond although he has invited him to some family events. LePage evidently feels that being nice and charitable toward a person of a darker hue means he cannot be a racist. I am sure there were many kindly slave-owners who felt the same way. This highlights one of the core differences between white and black charges of racism. Whites tend to see racism in presence or absence in personal interactions while blacks see it in the way they are treated, portrayed, stereotyped, and presumed to behave by the society around them. LePage obviously sees what he says as simple truth not realizing that racism, perhaps structural racism, has created what he sees as true and that what he said is untruth that contributes to that racism.