This guest post was submitted by Fargo-based attorney Mark Western
“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
If I were a betting man, I bet I don’t agree with many policy ideas that Governor Ralph Northam (D- Va.) has proposed. I think that his recent comments about birth/abortion are especially barbaric. But I don’t think that a 35 year old medical school yearbook photo that shows Gov. Northam in a racially insensitive photo with a beer in his hand is requires his resignation from high office.
Governor Northam, to my knowledge, hasn’t proposed any government policy that has racial animus or bias. He doesn’t appear to have lived his life in a way that promotes racial animus or bias. And if he did, I don’t expect that the people of Virginia would have elected him as their governor.
He hasn’t committed a crime. Even though it is tasteless and idiotic to dress in blackface or in a Klan robe, it isn’t against the law. Not even today. Prince Harry’s Nazi SS costume is just as tasteless, happened more recently, and no one is calling for him to step down from his prince-dom.
Governor Northam wasn’t in office when he had his picture taken- he appears to have been at a college costume party with alcohol. That makes him different than President Clinton, who made a famously racially insensitive joke at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner while he was President. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1993-05-05-9305050053-story.html Nor was the twitter-verse condemning then-Senator Biden for suggesting that you can’t go to a 7-11 without a “slight Indian accent.”
President Clinton was not a racist, and is not a racist. Neither is Prince Harry, Vice President Biden, and neither is Governor Northam. He ‘fessed up to his bad behavior and apologized. I take him at his word. We should collectively move on.
Sometimes the dumb things people do should be considered in the context of the time that the dumb thing happened. When Gov. Northam had his photo taken, the Dukes of Hazzard was still on network television, several states had the Confederate Flag as part of their state flag, and Northam’s own state of Virginia still had anti-sodomy laws on the books that were not repealed until 2014. I’m not saying that Gov. Northam’s photo was okay, but in 1984, the world was simply a different place. Times have changed. A lot of things that were okay in 1984 are not okay any more- like Max Headroom, saying “tubular” and wearing fur coats. And apparently drinking Budweiser at a college party.
Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes people do dumb things when they are young. Sometimes people say dumb things, even when they are not young. That should not mark them with a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives.
Governor Northam, I hope you don’t get re-elected to anything because of your politics, but you don’t need to resign.