Surprised, no. Sickened, yes.
2/8/2019, 6 a.m.
Is it white privilege, white hubris or just plain arrogance that keeps Gov. Ralph S. Northam in office well after most reasonable Virginians — and people across the nation — believe it is time for him to exit?
Last Friday, Gov. Northam apologized for appearing in either blackface or in full KKK regalia in a photo published on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. But at a press conference on Saturday, Gov. Northam expected us to believe his disjointed explanation that the photo wasn’t him, even as he confessed that he had blackened his cheeks with shoe polish to moonwalk and win a Michael Jackson dance contest later in 1984 during his Army medical residency in San Antonio.
Despite the voices from within his own Democratic Party and from people across Virginia and the nation, Gov. Northam refuses to resign from office. He said while both blackface episodes were wrong, he says that’s not the man he is now.
Adding to the sheer ridiculousness of the moment, Gov. Northam, in response to a reporter’s question, momentarily considered showing the roomful of reporters and a live national television audience that he could still moonwalk until his wife gave him a “Don’t you dare” look. He then said, “My wife says inappropriate circumstances.”
To add further insult, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Wednesday confessed to browning his face as a 19-year-old college student in 1980 to attend a party dressed like rapper Kurtis Blow.
There is so much that is hurtful, harmful and humiliating about Mr. Herring’s revelation and Gov. Northam’s actions, weak apology and weaker story that he expected Virginians to swallow.
Is this the time we do like the police with the gun buy-back programs and ask everyone to turn in their KKK robes and blackface party props by a deadline or face future punishment? Is now the time to, like in South Africa, convene truth and reconciliation panels to finally deal with the festering sores from the past and the current crisis?
By 1984 and at age 25, Gov. Northam should have known that dressing up in blackface — no matter the circumstance — is not cute or funny, but flagrantly racist and insensitive. He is so wrapped up in white privilege that he, at age 59, is just as clueless as he was at 25. That is why he cannot expect his inadequate, unconvincing account to allow him to remain in office.
Gov. Northam must resign.
This debacle illustrates just how deep, dark — and often hidden — the chasm of race is in Virginia and the nation, particularly when it comes to people and politicians like Gov. Northam and Mr. Herring who we believed were more enlightened.
And it shows exactly why there is resistance even among our so-called political “friends” to accomplishing what we consider “basic,” such as taking down the statues of Confederate slaveowners and traitors on Monument Avenue and eliminating the state’s Lee-Jackson holiday and replacing it with a day all people can get behind.