Paul LePage Has More Apologizing to Do

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has now apologized, supposedly, for what media have termed his racially-charged comments about drug dealers with names like "Shifty" and "D-Money" invading his state from New York and Connecticut to deal heroin and impregnate white women.

Time to move on? No. The embattled governor has a lot more explaining -- and apologizing -- to do before this episode can be considered satisfactorily resolved.

Two days after he set off the furor, LePage on Friday grudgingly offered a half-at-best apology and attempted to shed light on the incendiary remarks that got him in trouble.

The governor called them a "slip-up," an instance of his mouth getting out ahead of his brain. It would be interesting to learn where his mouth sourced its material. LePage didn't explain -- but research can help us fill in the blank, thankfully. It shows that when it comes to racist rhetoric, it's not that people's mouths get ahead of their brains. Rather, it's that one part of the brain -- the amygdala, which harbors base instincts like fear and negative stereotypes -- gets ahead of the part of the brain we might call our better judgment.

In the five days since LePage's rant, no prominent politicians or other public figures have defended his statement. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom LePage has endorsed for the GOP presidential nomination, called LePage a "good man" and pointed out that he has apologized.

The absence of more strenuous denunciations of LePage by Christie and the other GOP presidential contenders is no surprise. Truly, this has been a GOP campaign in which racially and otherwise inflammatory statements are more likely to bring one praise and support than scorn. Many seem to think that "valor lies in viciousness," as New York Times columnist Frank Bruni expressed it.

Exhibit A: Donald Trump and his rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims. Trump supporters say it's refreshing and admirable that someone finally has the guts to publicly articulate what everyone else is thinking but is too cowed by "political correctness" to come right out and say.

No, there is no valor in publicly stating the bad and the ugly -- even if we think it, which most of us do -- and there is nothing refreshing about public figures having the "guts" to articulate our base instincts. If it's cowardly and politically correct to be careful what we say about often-maligned minority groups like Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans, here's to cowardice and political correctness.

And then there's LePage's "apology." It was more dragged out of him than sincerely offered. And it failed woefully at saying what needed to be said. The governor did concede at his combative news conference that he should have said "Maine" women rather than "white" women with respect to whom Shifty was impregnating. But then he went on to try to minimize the offense -- never conducive to a real apology -- by saying, "If you go to Maine, you can see it's 95% white."

This is no minor assault on African Americans' dignity. In his remarks about drug dealers and the impregnation of white women, LePage is trading on two of the most poisonous stereotypes about black men: their supposed criminality and sexual aggression toward white women.

Are there black drug dealers? Yes. Just as there are a lot of white drug dealers, not to mention white customers. Liberal bloggers and social media wags have had a field day with the photos of three white people recently arrested for dealing heroin in LePage's state.

That the governor would aggravate his rhetorical crime by adding the sex part is mind-blowing. This is exactly the myth that has been used since the days of slavery and Jim Crow to justify treating black men as threats who need to be "kept in their place." And the best LePage could offer while "apologizing" is that he should have said "Maine" women rather than "white" women?

The vast, vast, vast majority of black men in New York and Connecticut who do not deal drugs or impregnate white -- er, Maine -- women, and the larger community of African Americans who put up with explicit and implicit insults of this sort every day, deserve better than that from the governor of Maine.

This post originally appeared at USAToday.com on January 11.