Perhaps Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) thought he had been too subtle in expressing his views on black and Hispanic people in the past. How else to explain what he said in a Friday press conference while discussing a threatening, expletive-filled voicemail that he’d left for a state legislator?
LePage was widely criticized earlier this year for claiming men with names like “Smoothie, D-Money and Shifty” were coming into his state to deal drugs. Earlier this week, he said he keeps a binder with mugshots of all the drug dealers arrested in Maine, and he claimed that 90 percent of the people in that binder were black or Hispanic.
Note that 95 percent of Maine residents are white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
On Friday, LePage first denied that Maine police officers were racially profiling people ― an obvious concern if they really are arresting almost exclusively people of color for drug crimes.
Then the governor suggested that people of color in Maine were “the enemy.”
“Look, a bad guy is a bad guy, I don’t care what color it is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don’t you?” he said. “You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine had pointed out Thursday that research shows blacks and whites deal drugs at similar rates.
“According to the governor, Maine police are nine times more likely to arrest people of color for selling drugs than white people, even though we know white people are just as likely to commit drug offenses,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement. “This alarming disparity in arrests raises significant concerns that Maine law enforcement is participating in unconstitutional racial profiling.”
The civil liberties group said it had submitted a Freedom of Access Act request for the governor’s binder.