Evaluate Northam, Herring on decades of service
The holier-than-thou cable news jockeys, in particular, and politicians — and would-be politicians — of every stripe have been on the attack, railing about Gov. Ralph Northam being an outlier in 1984, crowing that 1984 was the year before Gov.
Doug Wilder’s election as lieutenant governor and 20 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The attacks are both unfair and, perhaps worse, mask the pervasive and insidious nature of racism and the broad swath that it cut across much of America well into and beyond the 1980s. Indeed, racism should be seen today — when hate speech and actions are on the rise — as a very real problem that has to be addressed.
To put it in perspective, as late as the mid-1980s at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond, blacks were not welcome as members. What is more, somewhat startingly, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” with references to “darkeys,” was the official state song of Virginia from 1940 to 1997.
And, perhaps most remarkably for what it says about how racism penetrates our culture, the song remains Virginia’s song emeritus.
Governor Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring ought not to be judged by today’s mores on what they did in the 1980s, but instead on what they have done in the decades since. In that light, their contributions can be fairly evaluated, and the pervasiveness of racism can be recognized and combated. MICHAEL JAFFE.