I’ve never liked driving through Virginia.
As a student at Howard University, the Commonwealth was just across the Potomac River. It held nicer malls, manicured greens, and better blacktops to play ball.
Northern Virginia always oozed white privilege as the bedroom community of Washington, D.C. It was also the first stop in white flight during D.C.’s tumultuous late sixties through nineties. From the riots after MLK’s assassination to Mayor for life, Marion Barry showing the city’s penchant for cocaine consumption, D.C. seemed scary.
However, as a Black man, Virginia seemed scarier.
Driving while black was never more real than in Virginia where you knew two or more black males in the car justified a police stop. Mind you, I am a student at one of the area’s many prestigious universities but Virginia transformed black scholars into a criminal visage.
The Governor’s Folly
Yesterday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook photos came to light and boy was it reaffirming. The Governor attended Eastern Virginia Medical School for post-graduate studies in 1984 becoming a pediatric neurologist. There in black and white stood two real-life lampoons: a man in blackface and another in a white KKK outfit.
Northam revealed he was one of the characters but did not reveal which one.
Both were drinking beers with the slogan:
“There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
Additionally, another yearbook, from Northam’s undergraduate time at Virginia Military Institute, listed one of his nicknames is listed as “Coonman”.
Of course, the Democrat went on the offensive, apologizing on video and through a statement:
“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. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and teh values I have fought for thrughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians fait in that commitment.”
Immediately, calls both private and public from the Democratic political base were made for Northam to step down.
Ironic Twist of Fate
This is the state that boasts Jefferson Davis highway, named after the President of the Confederacy. The state that housed the infamous Nat Turner slave rebellion and still houses the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson restored plantations, Mount Vernon and Monticello.
More recently, the Charlottesville events where white supremacist factions staged a rally and caused a riot. Racially charged violence and even death occurred during the horrific set of events.
America has long dogged its race problems and white apologists always want folks of color to forgive and forget. However, when a sitting Governor shows racist ideological thinking, a sense of dread immediately sweeps over you. How many others that control the fates of millions have Sambos and white hoods in their rearview mirror?
Only time will tell but one thing is certain in this digital age, it will be discovered. Ironically, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia currently is a man of color, Justin Fairfax. It Norham resigns, as all signs point to, he would be the first man of color at the helm of the state’s top position.
Fairfax is also a descendant of the enslaved. If Northam resigned it would be the first in modern Virginia history.
How ironic would it be that a racist trope is the undoing of 243 years of Governorship sans diversity? So ironic in the fact that it just might happen and topple the image of a state that has never fully come to terms with its biggest sins.