Gov. Northam was photographed in either “black-face” or dressed in a KKK robe when he was attending Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1984. If the incident had occurred at a private party, then perhaps we would not know about it. The governor admits in his apology that his behavior was “clearly racist and offensive.” Cell phones and social media were still distant creations then; however, there were cameras. The governor actually posed for the photograph alongside a buddy. Was the picture taken for school’s yearbook? One wonders how the picture got past the editorial staff. What was the prevailing racial climate at that school? Were there any black students enrolled there? Did the yearbook staff have a faculty advisor? (If the picture is the governor and he doesn’t remember taking it or remember who the other person is, then what does that say about him? If it is him but he doesn’t remember the occasion, then what does that say? Was this ordinary and frequent behavior for him and his friends?)
I don’t know why we continue to register shock when we discover the racist pasts or present of a leader (Congressman Steve King, R-IA). There was a time when it was not only acceptable to be racist; it was taught and encouraged. White supremacy was the acceptable way. A war was fought to preserve that way of life in the South. Southerners erected monuments to their Civil War heroes who tried in vain to preserve their way of life. Those monuments are an affront (as intended) to black people of African slave heritage. Yet, we have to endure them in the public spaces as we go about our lives. There have been some efforts to remove them since the violent racist uprising in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed Heather Heyer. Most still stand.
Some of us thought that that time ended with the passing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws of the 1960s. Those laws were passed after much struggling and fighting and dying for those freedoms. But laws cannot change who we are at our core. We can obey the laws of the land without making a conscious effort to change who we are inside.
The governor is getting constant calls to step down from his position. I think that if we call for all the people in government with racism in their backgrounds to resign, then we would have many new elections taking place. It takes time and effort to come to terms with racists’ beliefs and behaviors. We have to root out the causes of such and learn new and different ways of being and behaving.
I am not saying that Gov. Northam should resign his position. His policies seem to be in the best interest of Virginians. However, if he tries to stay in his position he probably will have no chance to further effect change in Virginia. He is a Democrat. For that reason I would like him to step down. One party has to hold on to some vestige of morality. America needs a moral standard. Enough going down the ways of debauchery, thievery, extortion, lying, cheating, and stealing.
Perhaps the governor will have resigned by the time I post this. If he has, then that is the right thing to do. If he hasn’t then I understand. America is at a crossroads. What is good has been made to look bad and the bad has been turned into what is winning.
We cannot remove racism from the country by removing people from political office who have held or still hold racist views. Yet we see how racism leads to policies in voting rights and criminal justice laws and others that still negatively effect African Americans. Perhaps we need to investigate candidates more thoroughly before voting for them.
Governor Northam has presented us another teachable moment on the subject “Race in America.” Will we seize it and learn from it, or will the lesson dissipate as a vapor in this partisan political atmosphere? And again we start from square one.
When these incidents happen in this country, leaders and others rise up and say, “That’s not America.” I disagree. That is America. We must stop whitewashing (no pun intended) America and pretending she is something that she is not. Look at what is happening to brown and black immigrants who are coming to this country for a better way of life. Look at how black African Americans continue to be treated in their own country. America is still a work in progress. We are yet working toward “a more perfect union.” Remember?