Are there any Virginia Democratic politicians who haven’t worn blackface in their youth? Less than a week after the news broke about a yearbook picture showing Governor Ralph Northam in either a Ku Klux Klan outfit or wearing blackface, the state’s attorney general confessed that he also had engaged in this particular activity that seems to have been popular among future left-leaning leaders in Virginia.
The past few years have demonstrated a marked paradigm shift in American society, especially when it comes to political discourse and this new trend could be the harbinger of the type of environment that will continue to fracture the nation.
Virginia A.G. Blackface
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently released a shocking confession. According to his announcement, Herring had worn blackface when attending a party when he was in college.
“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” he wrote. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”
Then, the Twitter mob sprang into action quicker than you could say “Amos and Andy.” A cyber horde made up of outraged Americans swarmed social media to make sure the world knew exactly how they felt about the beleaguered government official.
To make matters worse, prominent leftists also slammed Herring. Race baiter extraordinaire Al Sharpton told Buzzfeed News that “We must deal with the fact that there’s a constitutional crisis in Virginia and that it’s based on race on the 400th anniversary that we were brought here as slaves to Virginia.”
Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox called on Herring to step down from his position, pointing out that the attorney general had called on Northam to resign after the yearbook photo surfaced. It certainly was not a good day for Herring, but he has not yet indicated whether he will leave.
Is Punishment Always the Answer?
The recent revelations about Herring and Northam are not the only examples of individuals coming under fire for exhibiting racist behavior in the past. Actor Liam Neeson also became the subject of criticism after he admitted that he wanted to harm a black person after he found out a loved one had been raped by a black man.
These revelations have sparked a conversation about how the American public should approach these issues. Some argue that those who have engaged in racist behavior in their past deserve to be scorned and relegated to irrelevancy. On the other hand, others believe that mistakes that were made in the past should not define who the person is today.
…the overall damage being done to discourse could lead to worse consequences…
There was a time in American society when someone who repented after engaging in questionable behavior was forgiven, provided that they had actually changed. The public did not hold one’s misdeeds against them if they occurred in the distant past. But now, we are living in a time when old tweets that are offensive to members of the LGBTQ community can cost a comedian his hosting gig at the Oscars. American society is not as forgiving as it was in years past, and there is no question that this change is unhealthy for any environment.
While there may be other reasons Northam or Herring should step down from their positions, holding their past mistakes against them does not provide a benefit for the culture. Sure, it might be politically expedient, but the overall damage being done to discourse could lead to worse consequences down the road. In the digital age, one’s old actions and statements could easily come back to haunt them, and a lack of forgiveness where it is warranted will only deepen the rift between Americans. The question is: Are we willing to sacrifice civil discourse to score political points?