Virginia Republicans need to tread carefully.
The state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, has apologized for appearing in a racist photograph showing two men — one in blackface and the other in a KKK-style costume. The Virginia GOP has called for his immediate resignation.
I agree that Northam should resign.
However . . .
Just a word of advice to the state Republican Party is in order. The nation’s Top Republican, Donald Trump, said in 2017 that there were “good people” who belonged to white supremacist groups, Nazis and Klansmen who protested the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va.
Will they hold the president to account for that hideous assertion?
OK, so a Democratic governor way over yonder in Virginia has been revealed to have appeared in a picture with someone who had smeared black paint on his face while he posed with a guy dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style robe.
Ralph Northam has apologized; he hasn’t said which of the young men was him. He issued this statement:
“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. …
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”
I’ll give the governor credit, though, for avoiding one of those “if I offended anyone” non-apologies. He has owned his egregious error.
However, is that good enough? Does that settle it? Not even close.
You see, the picture showed up in a 1984 medical school yearbook. Northam had graduated already from college, received his bachelor’s degree and was enrolled in medical school. He was an adult. It’s not as though he was some dipsh** junior high schooler who got carried away because he wasn’t thinking straight.
This picture is now going to haunt Northam for the entire time he serves as governor of a former Confederate state.
Virginia Republicans say he should resign. I believe they have a point. Gov. Northam cannot possibly be taken seriously from this day forward as he seeks to govern all the residents of his state.
Northam needs to go.
Now I get it. I am ashamed of my ignorance on the hideous history behind “blackface,” but I have been educated.
I want to stipulate that I’ve never accepted or laughed at blackface performances. I have known all along how insensitive and inciteful — and profoundly offensive — it is. I just didn’t appreciate fully the extent of its offensiveness.
Megyn Kelly, the broadcast journalist who became a media superstar over her questioning of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s treatment of women, now has joined the Media Hall of Infamy for her on-air remarks regarding blackface.
Kelly said she saw nothing wrong with people smearing black grease paint on their face to make them “appear black.” The reaction to her remarks was ferocious. NBC canceled her morning talk show. Her future now in broadcast journalism is, shall we say, in serious doubt.
I have learned about how African-Americans have perceived blackface performances by entertainers, how they have demeaned an entire race of people. They portrayed African-Americans as subhuman, as cartoon characters. I now know about how this practice pre-dates the Civil War, a bloody 19th-century conflict fought over the issue of slavery and that euphemistic issue of “states’ rights.”
I once rooted for Megyn Kelly to succeed after she changed networks, moving from Fox to NBC. Her new employers saw a great deal of potential in their new hire. Her weekday morning talk show struggled with ratings. Her future was getting a bit tenuous even without this outburst of anger over her on-air thoughtlessness.
Do I believe Kelly is a hateful racist? No, I don’t. However, she has painted herself (pun intended) as an individual who clearly needed an education on a behavior that long ago has been tossed onto the trash heap.
Her popping off in front of an entire nation about how blackface is no big deal exemplifies a level of ignorance that has no place on a major broadcast network.