On January 31, 2019, Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam(D) looked into the camera and apologized for pictures that appeared in his medical school yearbook depicting one person in black-face and the other person wearing a KKK hood and robe (Youtube video posted by ABCNews). In his confession, he said, "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now..." The controversy was fierce, with both Democrats and Republicans calling for his immediate resignation. Even Democratic Presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and Julian Castro joined the parade of protests calling for his resignation. Harris, never one to mince words, said, "Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government....The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together."
Surprisingly, only one day after the governor's confession, he did a complete reversal and said that he was not the one pictured in the photos. Just one day after a public apology, Northam wants everyone now to believe that he was not the one pictured in either racist image? Politics is bizarre, but it doesn't get much more bizarre than this.
So here we are, June 2020, and Northam remains in office to this day and with no immanent threat to his status as Governor of Virginia. What's even more amazing is our country has suffered through repeated incidents of African Americans killed by police and vigilantes in Louisville, suburban and inner city Atlanta, and Minneapolis, highly controversial events that launched a torrent of riots and protests from Washington, DC to Seattle, Washington and many cities in between.
The fallout from the racial turmoil we continue to experience has now led to national outrage over Confederate monuments, pictures, and even military installations named after southern civil war generals, and yet, despite all of the toppled monuments and removed pictures, Virginia's controversial Governor remains untouched and standing tall over Richmond and the entire state of Virginia. Why the focus on muted and rusty post Civil War monuments but silence over a governor who, let's face it, couldn't get his story straight about either being black-faced or KKK hooded and robed in his medical school yearbook photo? I am no fan of Confederate monuments and battle flags whatsoever as there is nothing to celebrate when it comes to this dark and destructive chapter in our history, but we certainly must learn the total truth about the Democrat-led Confederacy and all its evils so we don't repeat this history in any way, shape, or form.
My main point and the purpose of this post is to challenge protestor priorities in Virginia. Northam's black-faced and KKK hooded past along with his present Houdini-like escape from accountability speaks more loudly than the racist relics that continue to be vandalized and destroyed. If protestors want to make a major statement in objection to political indifference, racist images, white racist privilege, and leadership failure, then "toppling" Governor Northam by relentlessly calling for his resignation would be the more pressing priority and the more meaningful victory. As it stands, he lacks moral credibility as a leader and cannot go through this moment of racial crisis unscathed: Governor Northam cannot stand as a living and presiding monument to Virginia's deeply Confederate past by "progressive" standards. The Democratic Party of Virginia has a moral duty to practice what they preach when it comes to their public profile and messaging about racial diversity, equity, inclusion, intolerance for racism, systemic racism, and respecting blackness. But hey, as the old Confederate saying goes, "She's as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine."