I’ve been somewhat sympathetic to Governor Ralph Northam during his blackface ordeal, arguing (a) that we should not reach a judgment until all the facts were in, and (b) that we should not judge a man solely upon the basis of an act committed 35 years ago but upon his lifetime’s work.
Well, all the facts are in (at least a lot more of the facts than we knew when Northam issued his first mea culpa), and we can say with confidence a couple of things we could not when the blackface fracas began: While it may be true that neither the man in blackface nor the KKK hood in the infamous yearbook photo was Northam, the governor has yet to offer a plausible explanation of how he came to submit that particular photo for publication. The protocol was for Eastern Virginia Medical School students to select their own photos, put them in sealed envelopes and submit them to the publication. Unless someone working for the publication surreptitiously inserted the notorious photo — a claim that no one is making — Northam was the one who selected it. Thus, one can legitimately press the point: Why did he choose that photo? Even if he was not wearing the blackface or KKK hood, it appears that he had no problem publicly associating himself with the people who did. His dissimulation on the subject is as almost as troubling as the offense itself.
Now Northam is embarking upon an apology tour, starting with an appearance next week at Virginia Union University in Richmond.
This is how the university prefaced the event: “It is important to bring the community together to begin to develop a plan to reach healing and reconciliation.” The question is: healing and reconciliation with whom? The answer, it seems evident, is healing and reconciliation with the Left.
Northam has yet to utter a word of apology for the Latino Victory Fund ad (shown above), produced in cooperation with his campaign, which tarred Ed Gillespie and his followers as racists chasing down minority kids. And he has signaled no interest in doing so. So “reconciliation” probably doesn’t extend to Republicans.
Meanwhile, to educate himself on issues of racial justice, Northam has begun “reading up on race,” in the words of the Washington Post. Specifically, he has mentioned reading an Atlantic magazine essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” and a few chapters of “Roots” by Alex Haley.
Whatever else you say about the pros and cons of reparations — a massive redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks (I’m not sure how other races fit in) — it’s not a path to “racial reconciliation.” As for “Roots,” the book has been widely condemned as a fabulist tale with about as much historical verisimilitude as “Gone with the Wind.” Take this scene from the TV version of the book:
This clip shows white slavers escorting African slaves in chains to the coast. Such a thing never happened. West Africa was called the “white man’s graveyard” for a reason — whites died in droves. Moldering in forts on the coast, typically suffering from dysentery, malaria and yellow fever, Europeans procured slaves from African chieftains and kings, exchanging guns and goods for them. The history of West Africa during the period of the Atlantic slave trade is the story of the rise of these potentates and their depredations on the weaker societies around them.
While Northam “educates” himself on racial issues by reading fables and polemics, he has asked his Cabinet secretaries to come up with specific proposals to begin addressing issues of inequality, reports the Washington Post. Topics might include expanding access to health care, housing and transportation.
Northam proposes to atone for his personal sins not only by requiring his staff to undergo sensitivity training — how many people are rolling their eyeballs over that one? — but by enacting new spending programs to be paid for by…. others. As Hans Bader argues in a recent blog post, “you can’t make amends with other peoples’ money.”
All Virginians share the goal of creating a society in which African-Americans are full and equal participants. The question is how to achieve that goal. Should Virginia embrace the Left’s agenda of creating new government programs to supplement the old programs that have fallen so woefully short? Or should government focus on dismantling barriers, such as reforming zoning policies that restrict the supply of housing, and delivering core services, such as disruption-free schools where teachers can actually teach?
Northam shows every indication of wanting to placate the Left, a troubling sign of what kind of policies he will pursue.