Like many of you I have been following discussions of the revelation that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam dressed in blackface or as a member of the Ku Klux Klan when he was a medical student. It was reported that Northam was earlier known as “coonman,” an epithet which suggests that he had blackened his face more than once. His later admission that he put only a little bit of black shoe polish on his face because it is hard to get off, when he dressed up as Michael Jackson, seems to confirm that blackface was something he had tried before. There was also the fact that students had been asked by the yearbook committee to submit photographs for their pages: Northam did not say if he submitted the photographs on his page.
Some commented that Northam’s was not a (possibly forgivable) youthful offense, but one committed by a twenty-six year-old adult. Others said that Northam’s failure to take full responsibility for his apparently repeated behavior and the hurt and harm his actions and actions like them had caused was the more serious offense. Perhaps he could still have governed if he had apologized fully, told the story of how he came to understand race relations on a deeper level, and immediately offered to meet with black leaders and restorative justice experts to discuss what he could to earn back the trust of the people who elected him.
Everyone seemed relieved that Northam would be replaced by a young progressive black man. It seemed like a happy ending to a very sad story.
And then the other shoe dropped. Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax was accused of forcible sexual assault by a black woman named Dr. Vanessa Tyson who had absolutely nothing to gain by telling her story. Continue reading “Just When We Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse, It Did by Carol P. Christ”