Subscribe

login / sign up

close and back to page

Latest News

Latest News

Ask the CEO: Why Governor Northam Has to Go

Not dealing with the past is a greater threat than the results of the past.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

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 reelected. 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. Sherrilyn 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.

The Conversation (10)
Walter04 Feb, 2019

I am sorry but this is all over a picture that is 30 years old! Yes the picture may be "offensive" to the thin-skinned today but a 30 year old picture hardly reflects what a man is today. Does this 30 year old pic match Gov. Northam's "current" actions and behavior? Are we going to crucify everyone for what they did 30 years ago? If we truly want progress we need to be able to progress past the past! We need to embody what Jesus taught and forgive especially when people show they have changed. And a person can change without tearing themselves up in remorse, or wallowing in how "wrong" they have been. All it takes is a realization of wrong-doing and a determination to do right going forward. From what I've seen Gov. Northam has done "right" for quite now, so why the "lynch" mob over a 30 year old pic?

Michelle04 Feb, 2019

Great article. Too many people try to make excuses for these racists when their racism is brought to light. Do the right thing regardless of the consequences!

05 Feb, 2019

he should not have lied about it that right there put him out

Middle School Student Arrested After Refusing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

Ana Alvarez, a substitute teacher, asked the student why he continues to live in the U.S., "if it's so bad here."

An 11-year-old boy was arrested for not following orders and "causing a disruption" when he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class.

Read More Show Less

Four Staffers Working for Justin Fairfax Resign Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

Loyalties fade amid growing allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

In the wake of allegations of sexual assault and rape against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, four of his staffers have resigned.

Read More Show Less

Noose Images Labeled 'Back to School Necklaces' Found in NY Classroom

The community is holding Roosevelt School District accountable.

Noose images labeled "Back to school necklaces" were found at Roosevelt Middle School in Long Island, N.Y. The school district is investigating.

Read More Show Less

California Governor to Pull National Guard From Border

"This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism," says Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Facebook

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will order the removal of roughly 360 National Guard members from California's southern boundary with Mexico.

"This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism."

Read More Show Less

Mississippi Lt. Governor Was in Fraternity Known for Racist Parties

Tate Reeves is the latest politician connected to racist yearbook photos.

Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves is the latest politician connected to racist yearbook photos. Reeves is the front-runner to become the Republican nominee for governor.

Read More Show Less

Despite calls for his resignation, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) remains in office, following the revelation of a photo on his medical school yearbook page of a man in blackface and another man dressed in a KKK costume. In less than a week, another Virginia official is coming forward to say he wore blackface, too.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring released a statement on Wednesday morning, apologizing for wearing blackface in college.

"In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song," Herring wrote in a statement.

"It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But, because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup."

"That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt," Herring added. "In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but no matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation."

Northam's yearbook photo was revealed on Friday and Herring is actually one of the many officials, including the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, both of Virginia's U.S. Senators and the Democratic caucuses in both the Virginia House of Delegates and State, who've said the governor should resign.

It seems Herring decided to bring any past issues to the forefront, rather than have them revealed.

"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," DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti wrote in his latest column.

"I'd imagine he must have spent some sleepless nights knowing that it was just a matter of time before this blew up."

On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in the picture. But, on Saturday, he said he was not one of the people in the photo.

He acknowledged that he wore blackface at another time when he dressed up as pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Related Story: Bakari Sellers Definitively Explains Why Blackface is Racist

Bakari Sellers represented South Carolina's 90th district in the lower house of the state legislature, from 2006 to 2014, becoming the youngest Black politician in the country at age 22.

"I think that many times white people do not understand what blackface means," Sellers explained on CNN. "When you have your son going out in blackface for a costume or your son goes to prep school or elite day schools and they dress up in blackface, basically it means you're calling me n***er."

"The reason why I say that is because blackface goes back to the mid-19th century where people were dressing up showing them to be lazy, to be ignorant, hypersexual and to be all-out disrespectful to our culture."

The person who would be taking office if Northam resigns, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is continuing to face questions over an alleged sexual misconduct incident at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations.

However, if both Fairfax and Northam were to resign, Herring would be next in line.