Black Virginians abiding Northam’s tenure is also a reaction to the racist violence and rhetoric to which the state has a front row seat. In the lead up to the state’s gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, Republican candidates were running ads meant to capitalize on racial fear and resentment – ads that Republica gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie regretted after losing. Black Virginians, with the tragedy in Charlottesville still fresh in their minds, rejected President Trump’s insistence there were “fine people on both sides” after violence occurred during a white nationalist march.
Capturing the bloc’s pragmatism, one black Virginian recently told an Associated Press reporter that he believes there are many more state legislators who have worn black face. “Virginia is still a racist state. It hasn’t changed much,” he said. “Look at the president and all he has done. I haven’t forgiven the president, but he’s still in office, so why should they resign?”
By rejecting Trump-style campaigning and anchoring their preferences in political realism, black Virginians are helping shape the expression of, and responses to, racism in state politics.