Rebel With a Cause

Paul Goldman

Who Scared the VA Tech Board?

Warner, Kilgore blamed each other. But the NYTimes says Virginian Linda Chavez put the hocus pocus on the Hokies over racial preferences.


Mrs. Linda Chavez
Center for Equal Opportunity
Sterling, VA

Dear Mrs. Chavez:

Like The Fonz might say: "Hey!" How foolish of me not to figure you would resurface in Virginia after the ugly national blowup over your being named Secretary of Labor by then President-elect George Bush. If you had leveled with the President about the illegal alien episode, you would have survived the firestorm. But now you have again risen from the ashes. Yesterday, the New York Times suggested Virginia Tech blinked when the Center threatened the Hokies with a federal lawsuit if they didn't stop giving racial minorities what you defined as unfair, special advantages. The Times reports Tech is not the only school on your hit list, saying, "Since the letters have gone out ... five universities ...[including] the University of Virginia" may been intimidated into changing their policies.

The Cavaliers scared of Chavez too? It is hard to believe such a one-two punch could be true yet not reported in the Virginia press. To paraphrase those Halloween horror movies: She's baaaack, the Reagan-era's self-appointed liberal ghost buster having moved to the Republican-leaning Virginia after a big loss as the GOP Senate candidate in Maryland some years back.

Linda, you bill yourself as the "most hated Hispanic in America" on the grounds you were President Reagan's point woman in the fight against the "civil rights establishment, the feminist movement and the multi-culturalists." While Ollie North was secretly down in the basement making up his own fairy tales, you were upstairs, publicly rummaging through the closet to see what kind of fairy tales you could put out.

Let me say this: If you can find some all-powerful clique of "liberal do gooders" at Virginia Tech, then NASA is wasting it's money paying anyone else to search the heavens for life on another planet.

As for losing that spot in the Bush cabinet, I never thought it was a hanging offense, either then or eight years earlier for the Clinton-nominee you helped savage for a similar mistake. Naturally, your supporters said you were a victim of payback by the Clintonites, liberals, Bush bashers, and the Reagan haters.

At the time, I didn't understand why they were careful not to blame the Commies specifically, or Democratic National Committee officials generally. But having now learned you were once in the Young Peoples Socialist league and a pamphlet writer for the DNC, I guess they didn't want to open up that Pandora's Box.

You remember those days, of course? If not, you can read about them in the book Linda Chavez - An Unlikely Conservative, The Transformation Of An Ex-Liberal [Or How I became the Most Hated Hispanic in America].

What is with this "hated" fixation? Like Kojak says: Who loves ya, baby?

As for the book, the author seems legitimate enough: I mean, you wrote it!

And now, you have trained your fundraising schemes, disguised as legal analysis, on Virginia.

Surely, this could not have come as a surprise to the state's secretary of education nor the attorney general. They had to know the buzzards would be circling Virginia Tech and the other state colleges as soon as the 2002 General Assembly passed Del. Jerrauld Jones' resolution saying that the state's African-American citizens no longer suffered any lasting effects of segregation, the conclusion contained in a backroom accord signed by the state of Virginia and the Bush Administration.

That's right: the vote in the General Assembly was unanimous, not a single dissent from anyone including any member of the Legislative Black Caucus. Who says the pen isn't mightier than the sword? With a stroke of a pen, and a dose of the stuff Rip Van Winkle swallowed, segregation was now reduced to bad dream at least for college kids and their families.

Linda, I don't blame you and other Chavezites for thinking: This is too good to be true, we don't want to miss that legal party.

What did this Virginia/Uncle Sam accord do? In effect, it took away the legal basis for certain programs used by Governors Robb-Baliles-Wilder-Allen to protect many Virginia residents from being harmed by certain aspects of racial discrimination.

There is not a reasonable person in Virginia who would deny the lingering effects of segregation on millions of our citizens. As we know, it is not yet
possible to even erect a Statute of Abraham Lincoln without causing a furor.

Admittedly, this accord, having been implemented for over a year without any public debate on its wisdom, involves on its face higher education and de jure segregation.

But anyone who ever had occasion to deal with the lingering effects of segregation -- say, the person who ran Doug Wilder's campaign for Governor - would know that the accord signed by Mr. Gilmore is fatally flawed, and something that is not in the best interests of Virginia.

Segregation existed in all facets of life in Virginia, intertwined on purpose, the social, political, and economic realms each supporting the legal edifice. The goal was to keep millions of Virginians from being all they could be, not only in a material sense, but in every other way the state government could legally enforce. Thus, the effects of de jure segregation did not merely extend to the adults, but to their children, and their children's children in countless ways, direct and ever so subtle.

Mr. Gilmore can deny it, Warner Administration officials can pretend not to see it, and the General Assembly can pass resolutions to obscure it.

But no responsible government official, no educated commentator, no thoughtful editorial writer, can honestly dispute it: As Bob Dylan sang in his
famous protest song against segregation, "How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?".

Yes, one day, the effects of segregation, de jure and de facto, will be truly a thing of the past. I hope my son gets to celebrate that day and remembers his father on it.

But that is not the case now, in higher education, K-12 or other aspects of life, and former Gov. Gilmore, Gov. Warner, Attorney General Kilgore, the General Assembly and surely the Legislative Black Caucus, know it.

For example, is anyone going to deny that the Vietnam War experience is playing a major role in the War in Iraq, both in terms of the strategy in the field and at home in terms of the politics?

Of course not, at least if you expect to be taken seriously. Vietnam is a much part of the 1960s as are the Civil Rights Laws that "officially" ended de jure segregation. So: how could a war 10,000 miles away that lasted a decade still have a lingering effect on our heroes in Iraq, yet segregation, a political, social and economic condition that took away the rights of black Virginians for 10 times as long not be relevant in 2003?

Giving everyone the chance to be all they can be, from this day forward, is the only way to honor all those who gave so much over so many years. You cannot change the past, only learn from it. Virginia needs to maintain all the legal power it has always had to do the right thing.

Let me cut to the chase: Neither Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner, Jerry Kilgore nor the General Assembly has earned the right, by their own deeds, to sign any document voluntarily giving up any of that power. The same goes for them as group, no matter how unanimous any vote may have been.

For we are talking about a moral commitment, we are talking about a question of honor, something important in Virginia's culture, where honor is not just a five-letter word. This is still a state where after close to 400 years, the political establishment has yet to authorize in Capitol Square a single statute honoring a Black Virginian, a female Virginian, nor any number of other residents.

Virginia is a great state, I am proud my son was born here and named after Thomas Jefferson, the only state where it can be said that the full political rights have been shown to apply to all citizens based on merit.

It was done by facing reality and being an honest steward of our values, something that would be happening now if those who claim to have been
leaders in the fight had actually done it.

Linda, you may, as the New York Times claims, scared Virginia Tech into temporary submission, even rattled UVA's cage. Moreover, Governor Gilmore may have cowed the General Assembly and the Virginia secretary of education into hoping no one would notice their refusal to challenge his last minute bad deal with Washington, giving away some of our state's rights in manner never before
approved by any Governor.

But some of us are not intimidated by your tactics, having faced the race card being played against us on the battlefield; and beating it back, although admittedly not with ease.

Personally, I cannot believe the Times actually thinks Virginia Tech was rattled by your threats. But if it was, then, hopefully, when the Tech board meets April 6, the Warner appointees are given a backbone transplant, and reminded why they were appointed, Tech will put your center's fund-raising letters, disguised legal threats, into the trash where they belong.


-- March 31, 2003

(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2003.


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Paul Goldman, the Rebel With a Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.


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