What kind of fool do you think I am?
In his victory speech upon learning in the fall of 2017 that he had won election as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam is quoted as saying, “Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry.”
If the recent allegations hold true against Northam, he may choke on those words.
Last week, Big League Politics, a far-right website famous for promoting conspiracy theories, was the first to break a story involving Northam, a pediatric neurologist and a Democrat.
Since that time, every media outlet here in the USA and across the world has picked up the story, which is accompanied by an extremely disturbing and racially offensive photo.
I’m fairly sure that those reading my weekly column have already witnessed what I’m addressing here. For those who haven’t, in a 1984 yearbook published by the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) where the future governor attended and graduated, there is a page about Northam, complete with his college photo and two others showing his personal life – one of him kneeling in a plaid shirt and blue jeans – with a cowboy hat – and holding a beer; while another is of him sitting in the shade against what looks like a Corvette convertible.
None of those photos are offensive, but the fourth one on the page is. It shows two individuals standing side-by-side; one dressed in black face (with a hat, shirt – with bowtie – dark jacket and plaid pants), while the other is in a Ku Klux Klan robe, complete with a mask and pointed hood.
Later on Friday, Northam took to Twitter to offer an apology, saying, “for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
If that’s not an admission of guilt, then I’m confused about the meaning of guilt.
However, it became even more confusing on Saturday.
In a televised press conference, Northam backtracked on his Friday statement, saying after reflecting with his family and former EVMS classmates, he wasn’t in the offensive photo. He does have a proverbial leg to stand on due to the fact that the identity of the two individuals in the offensive photo isn’t crystal clear, shielded by black face and the KKK hood.
However, he had already admitted guilt on Friday. Saturday’s statement only served to add more fuel to an already blazing inferno….a firestorm that has enveloped the Governor and prompted a plea by Virginia and national politicians – many of his own party – for Northam to resign.
Perhaps the Governor would be better served to search the internet and listen to a 1964 classic written by Ray Whitley and recorded by the legendary Tams – “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).”
That despicable photo didn’t belong in general society in 1984, much less than on a page of a Virginia socialite, and the same holds true in 2019.
The South, and its good people of all races, have tried valiantly to move past the racial atrocities of our shaded past….the brutal attacks and lynchings carried out against people of color, the burning of black churches, and the denial of the right to vote and educational segregation prior to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
Photos such as the one on Northam’s college yearbook page, which stirred the emotions of all finding it offensive, sadly still exist today. Those who promote and condone such offensive and racially divisive photos are still stuck in what was the Old South. Their hearts and minds are still tainted and stained with the evil ways handed down by their hateful ancestors.
As a son of the South, one raised in a Christian home and taught that everyone should be treated equally, I’m hopeful that the rest of the United States and the world will not judge the actions of one individual and throw us all in the same pot.
Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at email@example.com or 252-332-7207.