Senator Confesses to Post: 72 Years of Blackface

The media gauntlet outside the Virginia State Senate Friday morning.

To: Nomination committee, 2019 Pulitzer Prizes. I know somebody will be winning your prestigious award for the deep and insightful reporting we’ve all seen in Virginia over the past week. To finish out the most amazing week in my 35 General Assembly sessions, I have enjoyed the following example of the fine trade of journalism, which I once practiced myself.

I am in possession of a copy of the following email string and would be pleased to share it. Keep reading until you see the Virginia State Senator’s response. I’m sure the prize is now won. The following initial email apparently went to all 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly (and perhaps uncounted local officials statewide).

Subject: Blackface/The Washington Post  

Wednesday, February 6, 3:18 p.m.

My name is John D. Harden and I’m a reporter for the Washington Post. In light of the recent comments and discoveries of Virginia officials wearing blackface and appearing in racially insensitive costumes, we are reaching out to all local officials in the state and asking them if they’ve ever exhibited similar behavior or wore (sic) makeup to appear as another race/ethnicity.

Our question: Have you ever appeared in blackface or took (sic) part in any act that would be deemed racially insensitive today? (ex: wearing a racially insensitive costume, appearing as another race, etc.)  

We know this is a very sensitive and difficult topic, and we do not mean to offend anyone with our inquiry. I think we owe it to our readers to investigate given the current climate. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. And feel free to include any information you feel is necessary to add context to the story. 

Thursday, February 7, 12:59 p.m.

Just circling back on our question from yesterday.  Again, we don’t want to offend anyone with our questions, and we know you are busy with the GA. If you don’t wish to answer, feel free to reply with no comment. And also feel free to use this time to express your views on the current situation in Virginia.  Thanks again. JDH. 

Senator Spruill

Thursday, February 7, 4:03 p.m.

Sir, Sen. (Lionell) Spruill is black. He said he’s worn it everyday for the last 72 years and doesn’t have to add to it. Susan J. Rowland, Chief of Staff

Thursday, February 7, 4:09 p.m.

Thank you, Ms. Rowland,

And I did not mean to offend or appear ignorant. I was aware that he is African American, but wanted to make sure I gave everyone a chance to respond to the issue whether they have worn blackface, appeared in racially insensitive garments or etc.

I should have worded the email better.

Again, thank you for your response. We really appreciate the feedback.

I’m sure the Pulitzer Committee will be all over that. Perhaps it can gather any other responses. Maybe somebody topped Lionell Spruill’s, but I doubt it.

I didn’t copy the emails in order to keep the addresses out of it. Apparently, other news outlets have tried similar tactics, some implying that a failure to respond will be treated as an admission of something to hide. They are, of course, borrowing a tactic from evangelical churches, who include in services a call for all sinners to come to the front and repent with the congregation watching. I’m sure once they realize they are borrowing from Christian worship, they will be appalled and cease such tactics.

Those who confess in church are then forgiven. Forgiveness is not the goal of the Washington Post and the rest of the political correctness brigade.

Live stand-ups on Capitol lawn Thursday at dusk.

For a week now, the national media has hung around the Capitol imitating vultures around a corpse. Normally slow and sedate legislators have been seen making amazingly quick, deft moves to avoid any face time with them.  They have discovered that if that cornered, the proper tactic is to start talking about a tax, crime or education issue and the reporters get bored immediately and turn off the camera.

Sen. Monty Mason of Williamsburg is fending off the William and Mary school paper, officially The Flat Hat but known to some of its alumnae (me included) as The Fat Head. It seems Mason’s frat did a fundraiser selling the labor of its pledges, something I think happened with my wife’s sorority. Yes, it was insensitively dubbed a slave auction.

I was chatting with a well-known national reporter, someone I knew 18 years ago, when his eyes spotted a black House member and he darted off to speak with him, then he spotted two more and trailed them down the hall for a while. He later said he came to Richmond Monday morning with two-days of clothes and sat there late Friday morning working on a Sunday piece. If you know the phrase The Old Grey Lady, ‘nuff said.

It has been an embarrassing week for Virginia’s three top elected officials (one of whom might face a criminal investigation.) That brilliant piece of reporting by the Post, that shotgun email inquiry to every legislator, deserves some attention and some embarrassment, too. Not the finest hour for the media, either, this week.

Anybody have an email address for the writers at Saturday Night Live?