What Did We Learn During Black History Month In Virginia?
Black History Month was, well, unforgettable this year. In the Old Dominion, anyway.
That was thanks to Ralph Northam, the first blackface (that we know of) governor of Virginia. And to a lesser extent to Attorney General Mark Herring, the first blackface (that we know of) attorney general.
Just when things were calming down, when it looked like the Democrats were going to get to keep all three top state jobs - even the one held by a guy accused of sexual assault - the First Lady steps in it.
There are conflicting reports about what transpired when she took the General Assembly pages on a tour of the mansion and passed around a cotton boll - reportedly beginning with the African-American kids - asking them to imagine themselves as cotton picking slaves.
Whatever happened would hardly be newsworthy were it not for her husband’s far more serious transgressions regarding race and Virginia history.
Had we not seen Ralph’s yearbook photo, had he not admitted he was in the blackface/Klan picture, before deciding that nah, that wasn’t him, had he not referred to the first Africans in Virginia as “indentured servants,” Pam Northam’s attempt to offer some kind of clumsy consciousness-raising tour of the mansion would have escaped public notice.
Even the poignant letter from the African-American girl who was offended by the first lady’s pass-the-cotton act wouldn’t have garnered much press - surely it wouldn’t have been the top story in Thursday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch - without the governor’s February scandals.
Most of us figured Ralph Northam wouldn’t last the weekend after news broke on February 1 about his racist yearbook photo and his college nickname, “Coonman.” All over Virginia, decent people recoiled at Northam’s implication that prancing around in blackface was just good clean fun back in the 1980s.
Every Democrat in the country - except Mrs. Northam, it seems - called for him to step down.
But as serial scandals enveloped both the lieutenant governor and the AG those cries stopped. After all, if the disgraced trio resigned, next in line for the governor’s seat would be Speaker of the House of Delegates, Kirk Cox.
So our three deeply flawed Democratic amigos remain. They were out of the headlines. Until Pam Northam took their place.
Well, it’s finally March. That means Black History Month ended yesterday.
We definitely learned a lot this year. About the three men leading Virginia. None of it was good.