So, let’s start by my alerting
you that my views on the Governor Northam controversy may be
different from what you expect. I don’t think that he should
actions of Northam thirty-five years ago, whether he was in those
pictures or not; whether he impersonated Michael Jackson or not, were
stupid and racist. There was never a ‘good’ time for
such performances. They were never funny nor should they have ever
these were actions taken thirty-five years ago, which goes to my
first point: there has been no discussion of whether Northam’s
record since 1984 has been consistent OR inconsistent with the
behavior represented by those pictures and his acknowledgement of
having gone ‘black face.’ This, above all, is what I
live in one of the most racist countries on this planet. We have a
country born on genocide against the First Nations and the
enslavement of millions of Africans. A country that stole northern
Mexico, and imported Asian labor. It is a country that has both
mocked and demonized all people of color (and, actually, whites who
would support our causes, e.g., John Brown). This toxin has infected
the entire culture of the USA, including what passes for comedy.
Why, then, should it surprise us that Northam or any white person
hasn’t said or done something that is completely objectionable?
bigger question is, what have they done since? Specifically, where
do they stand on our issues and on progressive issues more broadly?
Are they continuing to articulate white supremacist and revanchist
language, as is the case with Iowa Congressman Steve King? Or, in
the alternative, are they standing with us?
have yet to hear anyone who is calling for Northam to resign make
such a connection. People have been angered by the revelation—with
good reason—and critiqued his second press conference, again
with good reason. But I have not heard anyone argue that his
behavior has been consistent with those pictures.
is my second point. A lot can change in thirty-five years. I know a
LOT of people who, thirty-five years ago, engaged in various forms of
behavior of which they would not be proud. I know a lot of people
who were so completely wrong on certain issues brought to the public
domain—and which I will not mention at this moment—for
which they have NEVER apologized.
the question is this: at what point do we say that someone who has
done or said something objectionable, something that is not criminal
by nature, has changed? At what point do we note that their work
illustrates at least some awareness of the limitations, if not
wrongheadedness, of their former views and behavior?
final point. Why is this coming out now? What is going on
politically at this moment that this would surface? Does that make
you scratch your head for a second?