How should Governor Ralph Northam (D) properly deal with the racial fiasco that has embroiled him and the state government for the past two weeks? Should he resign like a majority of Virginia and the country is calling for? No, not according to him and his crisis management team.
Instead of swallowing his pride and stepping down from his office, Governor Northam will be reading Alex Haley’s “Roots” and “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, according to a report from Buzzfeed. His advisers are still working to line up more interviews with major news organizations so he can revitalize his image. As well, he will now tour the Commonwealth to “listen” – whatever that means.
Given his ridiculous comments during a softball interview with CBS‘s Gayle King – like calling slaves brought to America in the early 1600s “indentured servants” and chalking up his blackface photos to “white privilege” – Northam continues to make his situation worse.
If anything can be learned from the extraordinarily odd press conference the governor gave the day after he admitted to being in the photo in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook – which featured two men, one cartoonishly dressed in blackface and the other wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and hood – it is that Northam probably should not hold anymore press conferences.
During that Saturday press conference, the governor recanted his original position that he appeared in the photo, saying that it was actually not him. He said he admitted to his staff and then cut an apology video out of “shock” from seeing the photo.
Northam then changed his story the day following, telling reporters that he did appear in blackface in the same year, but in San Antonio, Texas, where he won a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson, also noting that he won because he “learned how to moonwalk,” per his own remarks.
When asked by a reporter if he could still moonwalk (yes, this actually happened) the governor then grinned and looked to his right and left to find room to attempt to show off his dance. His wife, Pam, then said to him “inappropriate circumstances,” considering he was surrounded by a crowd of stunned national reporters.
Nevertheless, after disappearing for days, he appeared on “CBS This Morning” to speak about his learning experiences throughout the chaotic situation.
During the interview, King asked Northam, “what have you learned that you didn’t know before.”
“Well, several things, starting with I was born in white privilege and that has implications to it and it is much different the way a white person such as myself is treated in this country,” he said.
“Did you not know that you were born into white privilege?” King asked, interrupting the governor.
“I knew I was, Ms. King, but I didn’t realize, really, the powerful implications of that,” Northam explained. “And again, talking to a lot of friends, that has come crystally clear to me this week. I’ve also learned why the use of blackface is so offensive. And yes, I knew it in the past, but reality has really set in.”
When asked whether or not he knew appearing in blackface was offensive in the past, Northam said that he believes “we’re all on a learning curve.”
“Certainly, Ms. King, I am not the same person now at age 59 that I was back in my early 20s,” he added. “This is a week that has been very eye-opening to me.”
Therefore, Governor Northam did not know it was offensive to don blackface. Not only did he not know it was offensive in 1984, but he apparently did not know it is still offensive in 2019.
Now, if all of this was not embarrassing enough, Governor Northam is now embarking on a “listening tour” to learn more about race, history, and white privilege.
As Virginia’s governor tours the Commonwealth to speak with leaders of the African-American community and advocates for racial equality, it will be interesting to learn what else Northam never knew about history, or what he thought was okay to do that was both never okay and is still not okay.
The end game for Northam’s tour is anyone’s guess.
Though, the two questions that still need to be fully answered are: why Northam admitted to being the photo in the first place when he claims he was not, and his nickname of “Coonman” while a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in the early 1980s.
Softball interviews on television are not going to root that out.
Apart from spending the rest of his term – which ends in January 2022 – as a “racial reconciliator,” he is also considering a fairly vague gubernatorial agenda of “racial equity.” Presumably, he will do such while continuing calls for his resignation.
Regardless, as one Northam adviser reportedly put it, “Now that he knows better he is going to do better.” However, given what the gaslighting governor has already said and continues to do, that is unlikely to happen.