, 13 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
So like this is the worst outcome of the Northam situation.
To think of it as a mistake made long ago is exactly the wrong take. It’s about trust and how elected representatives embody collective power.
Before black voters had ability to be a decisive block, white voters were the only people who could hold elected officials accountable. That’s the world that Ralph Northam came of age in. That’s the world of this photo.
Ralph Northam knew, when he ran for governor of a state with a long history of racism, that he had violated the trust of his black constituents by dressing up in blackface. Yet he asked them for their votes and received them, without this disclosure.
His first reaction when this came out was to hold onto power by minimizing it in his apology. Now he’s explicitly denying the very thing he apologized for and further eroding trust by bringing up lots of times (?!?) he apparently engaged with blackface.
For obvious reasons, as an agent of the public trust he shouldn’t expect black constituents to believe that he’s operating in good faith. He betrayed them in his actions today and his behavior years ago, but also in not trusting his own growth.
Because a man who has grappled with racism and his role in it, a man who has grown beyond his own limitations would not be afraid of being able to get trust from people whom he had previously hurt by being honest and seeking empathy and restorative compensation for the offense.
If Ralph Northam thought he was that man, he would not have been a coward today. But he has not atoned and yet still believes, over the judgment rendered by black Virginians, that he should continue to wield power over black citizens.
The reality of this age, which has not yet become clear to the white men who have so long run this country, is that they are no longer the ones who make the rules about what is and is not acceptable in public life.
White men are no longer the decisive voting block in many elections, and so we are liberated from accepting the minimum from them.
White Virginians will be likely to forgive Northam, thinking of their own transgressions. Black Virginians are under no such obligation. They were his margin of victory, and their demands are the weight on his dying governorship.
Now he is trying to hold onto power over black constituents without taking their concerns seriously, consolidating the betrayal. The only way to be worthy of holding that power would have been to concede it.
It is a grave mistake to think that it will be easy or comfortable to wield power over people without their consent. Ralph Northam is about to realize that soon, if not immediately.
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