Wednesday, February 13, 2019
When photos of Virginia Governor Northam either in blackface or a KKK outfit, the nation was once again divided. Many called for his resignation while the governor has refused to do so. Unfortunately, the governor's dialogue has ended there, except for an admission of earlier in his life using a "small amount" of blackface because everyone knows how difficult it is to get black shoe polish off the face. (Actually, most of us don't.)
Once again, the nation is at an impasse. Are resigning or not the only options? Why hasn't Governor Northam talked with members of the African American community regarding their thoughts on his personal rehabilitation and political remediation? Were there restorative measures that could create change in both the Governor's perspective on race while benefiting the community? Given the widespread calls for his resignation, probably not - particularly given the Governor's failure to make a sincere apology that includes remedial steps both for himself and the African Americans that have been further harmed. His most recent reference to slaves as "indentured servants" evidences Northam's deep racism and his rigid commitment to those beliefs.
Think of the opportunities missed. In a moving opinion piece in the Washington Post, Reverend William Barber II envisions different outcomes. He suggests that the Governor and others who have committed racist acts could begin by asking “How are the people who have been harmed by my actions asking to change the policies and practices of our society?” While the expansion of voting rights, providing health care for all and committing to a living wage are national issues that the Governor could endorse and foster, Reverend Barber suggests specific local measures that would immediately improve African American lives. "In Virginia, it means stopping the environmental racism of the pipeline and natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy intends to build in Union Hill, a neighborhood founded by emancipated slaves and other free African Americans."
In an age when apologies are presumed to be accepted no matter how untimely or insincere, the Governor needs to find a path to actual reparations whether he continues as Governor or not. The Governor's failure to do so says more about his personal failures than anything else.