Congratulations Gov. Ralph Northam, you have single-handedly ruined Black History Month. For those of you new to this national headline, here’s what happened in the media last week.
Gov. Northam was asked about a controversial bill to remove abortion restrictions in Virginia during a radio interview last Wednesday. When asked what would happen if a child was born after a failed attempt at abortion, he said, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” His response was infuriating for some. He seemed to have suggested infanticide.
After the interview on the abortion bill, a former medical school classmate reached out to Big League Politics with a photo that would make the fiery controversy swirling around Governor Northam into a political wildfire. The photo had a man wearing blackface standing next to another person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
The page was identified as belonging to Northam. The national outcry was explosive. Strangely enough, this outcry has been worse than the anger over the abortion remarks.
Maybe this is because no one knows what to believe.
On last Friday, CNN called Northam a Republican in a show hosted by Anderson Cooper. Northam is a Democrat. Cooper then tweeted the video segment. A tweet issued by Cooper the following day, offered no apology simply stating, “A previous tweet had a video misidentifying Gov. Northam’s party affiliation, it has been removed and the video has been corrected.”
In the immediate aftermath of the incident on the first day that it was reported, Northam said, that he was “deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.” He seemed more pragmatic than repentant but as apologies go, it did the job.
On the following day at a news conference at the governor’s mansion Saturday, Northam suddenly changed his story. The governor said that he wasn’t in the photo and didn’t know how it got on his yearbook page. He said he hadn’t seen the photo until his staff showed it to him after the news came out.
OK... that’s credible. I’m kidding. It is hard to believe that the governor had not seen the photo on his yearbook page before now.
He continued his story stating, “I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.” Governor Northam appeared to say that he had apologized to the country about the photo because there were so many angry people who may have been hurt by seeing it. Yet, In the same news conference, Northam acknowledged that he had dressed up using shoe polish to darken his skin. This was to imitate Michael Jackson at Halloween party in 1984.
Neither party is finding this story believable. Both Republicans and Democrats officials have called for Northam to leave office. And every day this number grows, while the governor continues to resist those calls to resign.
But that is not what makes irritates me about Gov. Northam.
I would call this news story a circus, but clowns don’t wear blackface. This debacle in national headlines has hijacked the narrative of Black History Month in the news cycle. I don’t think that anyone is publishing or broadcasting any actual “black history” stories right now in news.
Instead of promoting the accomplishments of black Americans in building this country, all we are hearing about is the failure of this governor who appears to be tearing down his state. And because he refuses to step down, we keep talking about the governor who has modeled a complete lack of integrity.
We are doing this instead of talking about historic figures in black history who modeled integrity and dared to tell the truth about how this country should work.
And during Black History Month shouldn’t we be talking about how this country should work regarding race? But that is politics and media in 2019.
I guess that I am hoping that someone will bring the focus back to black history before the month ends.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.