Posted by Edmund R. Folsom, Esq.
August 29, 2016
Governor LePage’s Drug Dealer, Race Problem.
Maine’s Governor, Paul LePage, recently set off a firestorm with remarks about the racial makeup of Maine’s drug dealing population. On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at a town hall meeting in North Berwick, Governor LePage announced that he has been collecting booking photos in a 3-ring binder, for “every single drug dealer that’s been arrested in our state,” and “ninety-plus percent of those pictures in my book…are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.” http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/gov-lepage-says-most-drug-traffickers-arrested-in-maine-are-black-or-hispanic/ As with a lot of Governor LePage’s self-defeating remarks, this one leaves me wondering: what’s the point? If someone at the North Berwick town hall event had claimed everyone arrested in Maine recently for drug dealing is a white guy from Lewiston, South Portland or Sanford, it would have been entirely appropriate (assuming accuracy) for LePage to point out that he has records to prove that isn’t true, and that most are actually black and Hispanic people from out of state. But that wasn’t the context for LePage’s remarks. Instead, the remarks were a response to an audience member who asked LePage if he had created a “toxic environment” in Maine, by accusing “people of color” of being “drug dealers, et cetera.” In that context, LePages’s remarks manifested a thought process something like this: “You’re saying Maine’s ‘people of color’ are not drug dealers? Well yes they are– in fact, I’ve got pictures of all the drug dealers arrested in Maine lately, and more than 90% of them are black or Hispanic.” Let’s assume for a minute that LePage’s numbers are correct (which they are not), what is the point of his remarks? It would be ridiculous to suggest that a person’s race genetically predisposes him to deal drugs. Nor do all blacks or Hispanics adhere to a religion or ideology that instructs them on the virtues of dealing drugs. Even if blacks or Hispanics do in fact deal drugs at a rate disproportionate to their percentage of the population, the cause must be peculiar to the drug dealers themselves or their particular subculture, and not to the fact that they are black or Hispanic. For instance, if the heroin trade in Maine were controlled by the Crips, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Zetas or MS-13, that would probably explain a disproportionate representation of blacks or Hispanics in the wholesale heroin trade. Those gangs tend to be racially exclusive– they don’t let a lot of crackers or gringos into the clubhouse. In that case, it would be useful for law enforcement to observe that heroin wholesalers here are overwhelmingly black or Hispanic. The observation would lead them to ask why, which would lead them to discover that particular gangs control the heroin market, which would help them combat the problem. But when the Governor goes out of his way to claim that over 90% of drug dealers in Maine are black or Hispanic, in a context where there is no good reason to make the claim, it disparages blacks and Hispanics in general.
This most recent flap is an extension of earlier remarks Governor LePage made, back in January, when he said about drug dealers who come to Maine to sell heroin, “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 we have to deal with down the road.” https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2016/01/11/after-maine-gov-said-drug-dealers-are-impregnating-young-white-girls-this-mother-of-a-biracial-daughter-spoke-out. Between the January comments and the more recent remarks, Governor LePage has gone out of his way to declare that more than 90% of Maine’s drug dealers are black or Hispanic (which they are not) and that he finds it particularly unfortunate that, half the time, heroin dealers from out of state impregnate a white girl before they leave Maine. Would it be preferable for the drug dealers to impregnate a black or Hispanic girl before they leave– you know, someone of their own kind? Given that the population of Maine is roughly 95% white, just what was the point of highlighting the whiteness of the impregnated females? Isn’t the problem, more generally, one of drug dealers of any race hooking up with women of any race, to create a pregnancy and then dump the wreckage? Here, I will point out that I truly despise the jive accusations of racism tossed around these days as a tactic to stigmatize and silence expressions of disagreement with political agendas. That said, Governor LePage’s remarks make it appear that he believes blacks and Hispanics are undesirables, extraordinarily likely to deal drugs, who frequently compound their soiling of our state by impregnating white girls before leaving town. That’s exactly the kind of stuff I’m sure ex-Democrat Senator (and Hillary Clinton mentor http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/29/flashback-hillary-clinton-praised-former-kkk-member-sen-robert-byrd-video/ ) Robert Byrd used to spout, back when he wore his pointy white hood as Exalted Cyclops of the KKK. So how much can anyone be blamed for seeing the remarks as racially inflammatory, if not outright racist?
Now that the issue has been so publicly raised, I think we should insist on seeing the actual numbers for the percentage of black and Hispanic people busted in Maine for drug dealing. It could be instructive. On August 28, 2016, the Maine Sunday Telegram reported the following: “The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service reported that, in 2014, 1,211 people were arrested for selling or making drugs in Maine, and, of those, 170 – or 14.1 percent – were black.” This debunks Governor LePage’s claim that over 90% of Maine drug dealers are black or Hispanic, but it raises other questions. Blacks represent roughly 1% of Maine’s population. People of mixed race comprise roughly another 1%. At most, then, no more than 2% of Maine’s population could conceivably be considered black. And yet, 14.1% of those arrested for drug dealing in Maine in 2014 were black. That is a rate seven times the percentage of blacks in Maine’s population. The MCLU points to national statistics that say blacks are no more likely than whites to engage in drug dealing. They suggest that the over-representation of blacks in Maine’s arrest statistics demonstrates that police are engaging in racial profiling. In other words, police are focusing on blacks and are therefore busting more blacks, but if police had the proper focus, the percentage of blacks arrested for drug dealing would be proportionate to their percentage in the population– 1 or 2 percent of all Maine drug dealing arrests. The flip side is that, if the MCLU is correct, Maine police must be focusing far less scrutiny on the white population than they should. In my understanding, FBI statistics blend whites and Hispanics, so I’m not sure how to sort Hispanics and whites from Maine’s overall arrest statistics. However, about 1% of Maine residents are Hispanic. If we assume the same police over-emphasis on Hispanics that the MCLU suspects exists for blacks, to be generous, we might extract another 170 arrests from the overall number of year-2014 Maine drug dealing arrests to arrive at the number of white people busted for drug dealing that year. A total of 1,211 arrests, minus 340 (170 black, 170 Hispanic) leaves us with 871 white people arrested for drug dealing in 2014. Working from the MCLU’s theory, if Maine police had placed the proper degree of emphasis on whites, so as to bust all drug dealers in proportion to their percentage of the population while holding steady on efforts with respect to blacks and Hispanics, they would have busted 6,097 white drug dealers in 2014 (7 times the actual number of 871 arrests). If a large proportion of law enforcement efforts focus on heroin dealers, that’s a lot of missed white heroin dealers in a single year! Conversely, maybe blacks were arrested for drug dealing at a rate 7 times their percentage of the population because blacks actually engaged in drug dealing at a rate 7 times their percentage of the population. Either way, shouldn’t we nail down the numbers and look for the explanation? — The real explanation, not the “Now is another chance to trot out my canned agenda explanation.” And no more “I’d like to take this opportunity to disparage blacks and Hispanics because they are blacks and Hispanics, and lament that black and Hispanic drug dealers are getting our white girls pregnant, but how dare you suggest that’s racist?” Come on… Cut the crap!