I am the same age as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. As he was selecting pictures for his medical school yearbook page, I was flying helicopters for the United States Navy.
I’m not sure about blackface in Virginia in 1984. I do know I attended flight school not long after, geographically next door to where one of the last lynchings took place in the United States —Mobile, Ala., in 1981.
But blackface and KKK costumes were not acceptable (or thought to be “funny”) in my fraternity at Rutgers University (even though another fraternity threw rocks at the first gay pride parade); or the Navy (which was not very enlightened either, the Tailhook scandal was years in the future).
Perhaps the environment of retro-Southern culture at Governor Northam’s Virginia Military Academy (VMI) made it humorous for a white student to be called “coonman,” or perhaps in his Virginia medical school nobody thought twice about posing in blackface or a KKK outfit.
But the fact that Governor Northam did not reveal these flaws to the public and apologize for them years ago makes it impossible to trust him now. I’d imagine he must have spent some sleepless nights knowing that it was just a matter of time before this blew up.
Thankfully, he has a good lieutenant governor who, unlike Northam (who is term-limited), can be re-elected. Governor, congratulations, you have had a great career without being outed. It’s over.
Why are we even talking about this in 2018? Have you read “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo? You should. She assembled the following statistics:
- Ten richest Americans: 100 percent white (seven of whom are among the ten richest in the world)
- US Congress: 90 percent white
- US governors: 96 percent white
- Top military advisers: 100 percent white
- President and vice president: 100 percent white
- US House Freedom Caucus: 99 percent white
- Current US presidential cabinet: 91 percent white
- People who decide which TV shows we see: 93 percent white
- People who decide which books we read: 90 percent white
- People who decide which news is covered: 85 percent white
- People who decide which music is produced: 95 percent white
- People who directed the one hundred top-grossing films of all time, worldwide: 95 percent white
- Teachers: 82 percent white
- Full-time college professors: 84 percent white
- Owners of men’s professional football teams: 97 percent white
If you consider this list in light of just about every quality of life statistic, we have not made much progress since the days that “coonman” was a cadet at VMI.
‘We haven’t made any meaningful progress’
Our nation disproportionately kills its people of color, imprisons them, kills their babies, systematically denies them the vote, denies them healthcare, denies them equal education, discriminates against them in every facet of life, and offers them a shortened lifespan.
We strip Latino asylum seekers from their children and write numbers on their forearms.
This travesty is underscored by the fact that our racist, misogynist, reptile-minded president is still adored by at least 35 percent of our population. (I think it’s actually 50 percent, but 15 percent are too cowardly to admit it).
No, we haven’t made any meaningful progress at all. George “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” Wallace, fervent racist and Governor of Alabama, won five Southern states when he ran a third-party presidential campaign in 1968. Trump is simply more of a talented pied piper than Wallace; he got the Republicans to put him on their ticket.
Civil and voting rights laws were passed, but the same 35 percent continue to fight against them, as the quality of life statistics are static. This means our current situation isn’t anything but the illusion of progress.
Even white women, the one group you would think has benefited from all of this diversity folderol, vote with their feet. By the time they’re 50, more than half of the college-educated women are GONE from senior management.
Held back, opted out, unfairly fired, whatever, they’re simply not there. Bogus Sheryl Sandberg is still the only woman in the management team at Facebook, five years after “Lean In” became fashionable. Now we know what happens when the oppressed lean into the status quo: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
I made this point at a manufacturing company: if 35 percentage points of their product disappeared between the end of the assembly line (57 percent college degrees earned by women) and the point of sale (20 percent women are senior management at average Fortune 500 companies), that they would do nothing that afternoon but find out where the product went. But because it’s women, corporate and political men just shrug their shoulders.
Which brings me to my final point, and another reading assignment for you. Sherilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote an excellent column describing how racism is a national security issue.
The Russians knew what they were doing in the 2016 presidential election by targeting racism as a means to elect their captive guy. An unrepentant and divorced-from-reality Governor Northam illustrates just how far we are exposed as a nation.
This is the security issue that is an emergency. Not a stupid wall.
(Before you bigots begin to chime in about the wall, I agree with you, but the president isn’t asking for enough money. I say give him $5 TRILLION, not $5 billion. We have a 4000-mile wall-less border with Canada — terrorists have maps! Most drugs come in through our seaports, wall them in too, almost half of the people here illegally came in through an airport — more walls.)
Don’t worry; they’re never going to be built. Trump’s focus will soon be worrying about the real “which hunt.” Which federal penitentiary will he and his children spend the next few years?
Black, Latino and progressive white people are the majority in this country. We need to start acting like it.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez (AOC) represents us better than Governor Northam, Cory Booker better than Mitch McConnell. The states with sanctuary cities have a higher GDP per capita than the ones that voted for George Wallace and Donald Trump.
It’s our country; we need to take it away from the minority occupation.