Blackface? No, it’s how Northam handles major issues
Gov. Ralph Northam was recently pilloried for his 1984 medical school yearbook photo showing one person in blackface and another in a KKK outfit. He admits doing blackface in a separate incident, but he does not remember the detail circumstances surrounding this photo. Many politicians and commentators considered this so seriously offensive that they demanded his resignation. I believe that some thoughtful reflection is in order.
Today, most of us are aware of the serious offensiveness of blackface. I served in combat in Vietnam, so I understand serious stress. Therefore, I cannot abandon our wonderful country by remaining silent while watching this episode spiral out of control. This photo is certainly not that serious, but it does however, highlight the important question of how to ensure the continued assimilation of minorities into full equality in Virginia and the USA. It should also trigger very serious discussion about what is best for America, regardless of party, beliefs, throwing more money to the rich, ignoring the common person, gun laws, tax laws, health policies, etc.
Reflexively blasting Northam piously distracts from determining the best path forward. I would ask his accusers to swear that they are so pure that they have nothing in their past which they would mind on the front page of a newspaper. Remember what Christ said: “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” Ralph Northam has spent his entire adult life helping others, regardless of race or status. The resignation of this compassionate and proven leader over a thoughtless youthful indiscretion would have done nothing to advance the interests of our residents. He handled the explanation awkwardly. Big deal. Far more importantly, he is handling the major issues effectively; that is what counts.
Crucially, in our present hyper political climate, there is a political philosophy which says that in order to correct things, we should raise cane with the organization, criticize others, and shake things up. If you think that this is a good idea, try it at work or in your family.Gov. Northam understands that to achieve effective change, you must listen to all opinions, and respect all viewpoints before your decision. He is quietly and effectively doing that; we should be grateful.
Many blacks today remain supportive of the physician and Gov. Northam, who shows them genuine respect. They understand that he has demonstrated fairness in actions rather than just in words and know him as a real friend. In contrast, other political leaders today openly support discrimination, the KKK, the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, etc.
The ideal key to improving society is to learn, debate, and adopt the best change without violence. This inspiring VMI example of change is relevant for Gov. Northam. His admitted blackface episode two generations ago was not uncommon then. Today he understands how hurtful and inappropriate it was, and he has unequivocally disavowed it. He has spent his adult life helping and healing all people equally and enthusiastically supporting civil rights. Most blacks understand this. We should, too.
Rather than expressions of outrage, we should focus on the thoughtful analysis of how to improve future long-term relationships among all Americans. I believe that after such reflection, most people will understand that we should support Gov. Northam in his efforts to address those relationships and be grateful for his proven and compassionate leadership.
Hopefully this letter will help toward thoughtful healing. It expresses my opinions alone, no one else’s.
Doug Thomas is a resident of Winchester.