The tale of blackface yearbook photos in Virginia won’t be going away any time soon. Governor Ralph Northam is sticking to his intention to not resign and efforts at filing articles of impeachment in the legislature have thus far been stymied. But the Governor isn’t acting as if he can simply pretend all of this unpleasantness never happened and go about the state government’s business as usual. He’s got some bailing and repair work to do if he wants to keep the ship of state afloat.
Step one will be some light reading of authors such as Alex Haley and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Step two will consist of a “listening tour” similar to the one Hillary Clinton highlighted during her 2000 Senate run. But who will be talking to him? (Buzzfeed)
As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam continues to resist calls to step down over the racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, he and his advisers are close to finalizing plans for a statewide “listening tour” to engage different communities in conversations about race.
Additionally, a source close to the governor said Northam is telling people privately that if the commonwealth’s legislature puts a bill on his desk that provides the authority to bring down Confederate statues that he would sign it…
The goal of the listening tour, his adviser said, is not to just listen to Virginians but to talk about what he has learned from his own experiences. Northam hopes to regain the trust of nearly half the people in his state who believe that the events that have turned Northam into a household name have also rendered him unable to be an effective governor.
If there actually is such a thing as a “listening tour” for a politician who was sincere about their need to expand their world view, I could get behind it. No matter where or how you grew up and lived your adult life, there will always be entire communities you know little or nothing about on a personal level, never having had to walk a mile in those shoes. This not only goes for the wealthy and “privileged” understanding those less fortunate but the reverse as well. Is this what Northam is truly setting out to do? If so, I wish him the best.
But it’s equally clear that the entire racism question is going to eclipse any other political agenda he may have had for the rest of his term, assuming he gets to finish it out. His aides are already saying that he will be focused on things like new legislation to enforce diversity and equality along with pushing through new funding for Virginia’s five historically black colleges and universities.
On the one hand, steps such as this might go a fair way toward improving his approval ratings among progressives in general and black voters in particular. But at the same time, isn’t he also ensuring that he’s never going to put this issue behind him? The majority of his agenda will be viewed as one press release after another saying, hey… look, guys. Still not being a racist! We cool?
Either Ralph Northam is a racist deep in his heart or he’s not. He’s certainly shown no signs of it in his later life, conforming to what liberal Democrats would expect of any candidate or elected official. Maybe the yearbook photo (if that really was him) and dance competition phase was just Northam being foolish and not realizing how insulting his behavior was. If that’s the case and enough people accept that explanation, let him get on with his job. But if Virginia voters believe those incidents were only symptoms of something deeper, get on with the impeachment process and move past this phase of state history. All Northam is doing now is prolonging the torture.