The Latest Casualty of the Culture Wars

J.H. Binford Peay III

J.H. Binford Peay III, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, has submitted his resignation, stating that Governor Ralph Northam and senior legislations had “lost confidence” in his leadership. The VMI board accepted his resignation “with regret.”

Peay’s departure follows a Washington Post article alleging an atmosphere of “relentless racism” at the military college. Two days later, Northam and top legislators announced an independent, third-party review of VMI culture, policies, practices and equity.

While racist acts have occurred at VMI in the past several years, most cited by the Washington Post were punished by the administration or involved private expressions of opinion by students or staff. I detailed my response to the Post article here.

Peay had tried to thread the needle between maintaining long-held VMI traditions, which revered Stonewall Jackson and the role of the cadets in the battle of New Market, and being sensitive to the feelings of African-Americans who comprised an increasing percentage of the student body. He enacted several reforms earlier this year but critics charged they did not go far enough. 

We are now in the witch hunt phase of the anti-racism hysteria as the definition of what constitutes “racism” broadens inexorably and anyone who fails to submit to the ever-mutating orthodoxy is crushed.

Remarkably, Northam, whose VMI nickname was “Coonman,” has not only survived his blackface scandal but has emerged as popular in public opinion polls as ever. He earned indulgences from fellow Democrats and the media by implementing “anti-racism” Critical Race Theory in Virginia public schools, embracing the doctrine of opposing “environmental racism,” and implementing other anti-racism measures in state government.

— JAB

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14 responses to “The Latest Casualty of the Culture Wars

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    J.H. Binford Peay III. Eagle Scout, VMI graduate, Civil Engineering degree, quarterback of VMI, 2 tours in Vietnam, commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Operation Desert Storm, Lt. General, full General, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, many more medals, and Superintendent of VMI.

    How can Governor Northam possibly lose confidence in a great American hero in the tradition of George Catlett Marshall?

    The best tribute the cadets of VMI could show is a mass resignation from the school.

    • They just want the Jackson statue gone. Plus no more memorial to, certainly no “celebration” of, the school’s role in the Battle of New Market. I’m sure the message has now been received….Moses Ezekiel’s “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” must also go – one cannot mourn the death of those who served an evil cause….Do all that and the storm will move somewhere else.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        The storm will never end Mr. Haner. I sure picked the wrong generation to be a Virginian. Glad Uncle Charlie Class of 1924 didn’t live to see this.

  2. Del. Kirk Cox, former House Speaker, issued an excellent response:

    “I am deeply disappointed that General Peay was not afforded the respect he deserved by the Governor and the other elected officials who saw fit to demand his resignation only days after calling for an investigation of incidents alleged in the news media. The Governor, in particular, should understand the importance of withholding judgment until the facts are in and should treat others with the same grace he once sought for himself. …

    “It sets a very dangerous precedent … for the Governor and other political officials to take precipitous actions in response to news stories, especially when those actions preempt the considered judgment of the governing board entrusted to manage the institution under our laws. Nothing will undermine the quality or reputation of our nationally-esteemed higher education system faster than for our colleges and universities to become political footballs tossed about by politicians who apparently lack the judgment and discretion to respect proper process and wait for the facts.”

    • One does have to look at this in the context of the Silence of the Third Floor over the ongoing debate at UVA over Miss FU, the Woke Undergraduate. Supe Peay had just as much (or little) control over the thoughts, statements and private behavior of individual students as Prez Ryan does. Which is why I think the real issue was Peay’s defense of the status quo on the statue and New Market memorials.

    • That is a much more polite response than “Ralph Northam, isn’t fit to shine General Peay’s combat boots”, which was the first thing I thought upon hearing about this.

  3. While I am in agreement with Mr. Whitehead’s sentiment, I disagree with tributes and resignations in protest. What would be the practical effect of a mass resignation? Wouldn’t it open up the school to a broad takeover by the snowflakes? I think there’s no doubt that it would.

    Resignations in protest are highly overrated. I try to remember Paul Nitze’s admonition that very little is accomplished by resigning in order to protest. The best you can hope for is a media splash for a day, maybe two. After that, you are out of the game and have far less opportunity to influence things. Better to stay in the game, continue trying to persuade others of your viewpoint, use persuasion, and struggle to influence outcomes from the inside. The results are generally better. Even in the most cynical view, it’s easier to keep in touch with what the opposition is doing by staying inside the system.

    Nitze gave me this advice in the midst of SALT talks with Russia. Even so, he later resigned from the SALT negotiation team in 1974, before Nixon was ousted from office. But the reason for resigning was not to protest. He found it impossible to get any decisions made by the president, who was preoccupied with Watergate and domestic concerns. He also believed any future influence he might have in the foreign policy arena would be jeopardized if he stayed on with Nixon, with whom he had been in singular agreement on the correct approach to SALT and to Russia.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      It is tragic to smear an honorable Virginian who has served his state and country to the highest degree and in the best tradition. If not a mass resignation than perhaps a mass strike by the cadets.

      • Ok, I like strikes better than resignations, but they are close, particularly if the managing authority decides to replace the strikers. Then the result is the same: the strikers are now on the outside looking in, with greatly reduced influence

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Interesting how Janet Howell is using $19 million of state support to leverage VMI. Northam sat on this for months. He did not get motivated until leaders from GA Black Caucus contacted the Executive Mansion.
    Shutting down VMI looks like a real possibility. It would be difficult if not impossible for this school to become a private entity. VMI is a state asset. Nobody is going to give it away and it would be too costly to sell to the alumni. Perhaps Superintendent Peay’s resignation will buy the time needed to clear VMI’s name. I thought this opinion piece was enlightening.
    https://roanoke.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-would-virginia-shut-down-vmi/article_a2b91e66-1482-11eb-9245-ff325f055a12.html

  5. Remarkably, when politicians do things voters like they remain popular with voters. Remarkably, when a politician has spent the intervening 30+ years not being racist and supporting policies centered on equality voters are understanding that what he did when he was 25 isn’t reflective of his current character.

    As always, it’s interesting that one door at one state university is proof that the halls of higher education are at great risk of falling to the New Woke Order, but multiple documented incidents of racist behavior on the VMI campus and the continued veneration of a man who waged war against the United States of America to keep the forebears of current students enslaved is much ado about nothing.

    Even if you don’t agree with the idea that racial inequality is embedded in the structures of the American social machine, the proportionality outlined in the previous paragraph should give you pause. If one student (someone with no power over anyone) putting up one sign on one door is a problem then how is faculty (people with tremendous power over students) posting an implied threat to shoot political opponents or effectively saying “No Mexicans Allowed” not a problem?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I disagree with your statements.

      “but multiple documented incidents of racist behavior on the VMI campus”

      These were dealt with just like all infractions at VMI are dealt with. This is a no non-sense campus. In my past teaching career I directed a 3 black students to VMI. They loved it and revere the institution.

      “the continued veneration of a man who waged war against the United States of America to keep the forebears of current students enslaved”

      Thomas Jonathan Jackson is an integral part of the institute just as George Catlett Marshall and many other famous alumni. Your argument is tired and worn out.

      “supporting policies centered on equality voters are understanding that what he did when he was 25 isn’t reflective of his current character.”

      Mr. Northam has to practice “race hustling” to stay politically alive. How can this man sack a bona fide American hero such as General Peay, and still remain in office as if none of Northam’s past sins count or ever happened?

  6. Baconator with extra cheese

    Look at this way…. maybe we can get to rock bottom in this culture war sooner rather than later.
    In all honesty I hope the most ridiculous and costly policies get pushed through as fast as possible. I am postive the next GA session will be a spectacle of out-woking the country has never seen. Everything will be prefaced on equity/ diversity/ anti-racism. I really believe the more this is on the front page and in everyone’s face the quicker it’ll be put down. But it will be costly and unfortunately violent. I think it’ll hurt those it was meant to lift up the most.
    I saw a story in the Baltimore Sun where a nonprofit wants 25% of those cleaning up the Bay to be black… since the state population is like 20% black does this mean less white people should volunteer just so the percentage is higher?… even if it means less people helping?…
    I have already stopped helping because of this type of message.

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