The myth that white women need protection from sexually potent black criminals is as old as racism itself.

If Gov. LePage didn’t know what he was saying Wednesday night when he told a Bridgton audience that out-of-state heroin dealers come to Maine and “impregnate a young white girl before they leave,” he should have kept his mouth shut. Intentionally or not, the message he sent the world is that Maine is a safe place to traffic in the garbage ideology of the Jim Crow South.

The time has long passed for us to lecture Gov. LePage about his racially insensitive language. But what does this incident say about the rest of us? He is not the only one in Maine who should be held accountable for these words.

After all, this is not some loudmouth caller on talk radio, or a cranky uncle who leaves other family members rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at the Thanksgiving table. This is our twice-elected governor, a man who has made racially charged statements before and has never had to pay a political price. In fact, he has just gotten more popular.

LePage’s latest comments come at a dangerous moment in American life. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is built almost exclusively on racial appeals to white voters, and he blames dark-skinned outsiders from Latin America and the Middle East for the nation’s economic and security problems. Trump promises to “take our country back” leaving it to the chanting crowds at his rallies to decide to whom the country rightfully belongs and from whom it needs to be taken.

The Trump movement drives a wedge between the races, which might be good politics in the nearly all-white Republican primary electorate. But what kind of country will it leave us with?

That’s also a question for nearly all-white Maine, which once had a reputation for tolerance that would have made such blatant appeals to race political suicide just a few years ago. But as social medial lights up with messages of support for LePage’s comments, it’s clear that he’s not alone. If people weren’t buying it, politicians like LePage wouldn’t have anything to sell.

We don’t know what Gov. LePage meant to say in Bridgton on Wednesday night, and we can’t know what’s really in his heart. We only know what came out of his mouth, and that’s all that matters.

Anyone, regardless of their race or political party, who finds something morally objectionable with what the governor has said needs to speak out now, or stay silent and be counted as one of his supporters.

If we don’t tell the world what kind of place Maine is, he will.

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