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Let Go, Governor
By Pippa Abernathy
I have grown up in Virginia and have faithfully Northam got my vote when Virginia voted for its governor back in 2017. Was he my absolute favorite candidate ever? No, but I believed wholeheartedly that he at least had the intelligence and compassion to lead Virginia for at least the next four years.
But he had his chance and blew it.
Though Northam wasn't that progressive by any means, I never imagined he would have ever thought that appearing in a racist costume in a yearbook was at all acceptable. At the same time, I really shouldn't be surprised either. He ran his campaign teeter-tottering on being just liberal enough to gain the trust of the left while appealing to the traditional pastimes of the right. He was a soldier and a pediatrician before assuming the role of Governor of Virginia, but even with an impressive academic record, he managed to not be smart enough to recognize the social constructs that allowed himself to get to that point. He leveraged both to gain the seat as Governor.
With Virginia's history, it's simple to see how; our history is rich, but deeply rooted in the exploitation and trauma of African-Americans from the very beginning... and it continues to this day. I've seen it thrive in the state as well, especially after witnessing the election of Donald Trump and how many worship his every problematic and hateful word. It was glaring in Charlottesville when the Alt-Right emerged from the shadows with their tiki torches.
Speaking of which, our Commander in Chief has not said a word in defense or in defiance of the man...strange, considering he was very much on the side of Kavanaugh regardless of his own yearbook entries. The same can be applied to all of the men and even women backing Kavanaugh on his "sorry situation", which further proved our country still holds the persistent sexist attitudes that allow rape and sexual assaults to remain a prevalent issue.
While those same kinds of people come to Trump or Kavanaugh's defense at any of his wrongdoings, Northam's "oops" sure has made Republicans and otherwise anti-Democrat happy to point fingers. especially the ones who wanted his head on a platter for his comments regarding a controversial new bill on abortion. The incident comes at pretty convenient timing for Republicans as well as Trump's reelection campaign and the gloating of which party is more morally sound is back in the headlines once again.
Regardless, here's something we all need to get in our heads: racism and its constant abuse are not exclusive to one political party.
But that's not something that neither Northam nor many others seem to recognize. In his public video apology, Northam rug sweeps the glaring issue that has erupted from the controversy, stating "That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect the person I am today," he said in a public video message. While that may be true, the privilege he has built his career upon should not protect him from what needs to happen: resignation.
So that leads us to a bigger question: Why do political parties only care about bad behavior when it hurts the other party? Are we not supposed to find a way to work together as a country as intended? This would be easier for both parties to recognize if the general population was more willing to acknowledge that racism isn't dead. Barack Obama's election was boasted as a "post-racial" era of America. Hell, lots of people think that after the 1960s, we eradicated the concept of color and lived happily ever after. But this "post-racial" thinking also contributes to the myth that a picture taken "a long time ago" should be excused because of it being a "different time". The bigger problem with Northam's photo and many others scattered about is that even with technological advancements and a more diverse Congress than ever, we're still living in times that benefit from systems placed over 400 years ago.
No matter which party's representatives commit racially or otherwise malicious acts, it should automatically indicate that they are unfit to lead. I am ready to see that double standard be lifted so we can make room for the kind of leaders our country deserves. The ones we deserve certainly are not perfect either, but know what constitutes integrity.
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