Raise your hand if…

…you were a white college student in the 1980s who didn’t wear “black face.” For fuck’s sake:

RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said Wednesday he dressed in blackface during college, elevating the Capitol’s scandals to a new level that engulfed the entire executive branch of government.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said in a statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring acknowledgment comes as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces calls for his resignation after a photo emerged on his 1984 medical school yearbook page featuring someone in blackface standing next to someone in Ku Klux Klan robes.

I owe commenter Sasha an apology. The other day, during a discussion about Northam, I said there was no fucking way a white college student in 1984 could have not known that putting on “black face” was an aggressively racist thing to do. She said she knew white people who wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal. She was right.

243 replies
  1. 1
    Brendan in NC says:

    There better be a ton of oppo research into the Republican who’d take over if Herring exits…

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  2. 2
    Elizabelle says:

    Herring was an undergrad at UVa. Mr. Jefferson’s university. Born in 1961. Earned a master’s there too.

    The GOP must feel like it’s Christmas, but I think it’s useful to have this conversation. Dog knows what else is out there. With all our politicians.

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  3. 3
    MisterForkbeard says:

    Yep. What this makes clear is how blackface was not controversial in some parts of the country in the 80s. Which isn’t too surprising given how even 6 months ago Republicans are insisting it isn’t that bad.

    Sigh.

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  4. 4
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    There has to be racist dirt out there like this on the Virgina Speaker of the House and other Republicans. Somebody needs to get that out there. Now.

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  5. 5
    Gvg says:

    Isn’t this the third in the sucession after the govenor and lt gov? We were saying that there were 3 dems in the line of sucession before a republican so no point in trying to frame the lt gov…

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  6. 6
    ChrisS says:

    The thing is, to the GOP, it’s not a big deal.

    The democratic party, cutting their own throats since the dawn of time.

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  7. 7
    Yarrow says:

    Democrats in Virginia don’t seem to be good at doing oppo research on themselves. How has all this not come out before? Get it out there, apologize–Herring’s statement seems good to me–but do it before it’s an issue.

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  8. 8

    This is what I said in the last thread:
    Exactly! Black face 30 plus years ago is bad, but far worse is the egregiousness of R bigotry in the present tense.

    ETA: We are not choosing between flawed and perfect, but between flawed and more flawed.

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  9. 9

    The other day, during a discussion about Northam, I said there was no fucking way a white college student in 1984 could have not known that putting on “black face” was an aggressively racist thing to do.

    The manager of a major student organization of which I was a member dressed up as a black administrator who’d been hassling us, complete with skin coloration, during a party in… 2004?

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  10. 10
    Yarrow says:

    @Gvg: Sure seems like a Republican op to me. They had it all, so they take the Dems out one by one.

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  11. 11
    kindness says:

    I’ve never worn blackface and I’ve never worn a Klan robe. College in the 70’s & 80’s. Having said that I think the governor of Virginia has been a really good Democrat his whole career. I would be fine to let him serve out his term. This lust for blood to prove purity isn’t a good look as far as I’m seeing.

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  12. 12
    Kent says:

    For Fuck’s sake. I graduated college in 1986. The big political movement on campuses at that time was the Divestment from South Africa campaign. At least on my west coast college. This blackface bullshit is so far from the reality that we lived back then I can’t even imagine. It wasn’t the 1950s.

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  13. 13
    ChrisS says:

    To me it’s not about the act that makes one unfit for office, it’s attitude regarding the act. Attitudes change. If Northam and Herring are contrite and understand now that their attitude in the 1980s was wrong and than I have no issue with them staying in office. However, if they still think that blackface is no big deal and the blacks shouldn’t have an issue with it, we were just joking around, boys will be boys, then there are issues with them staying in public office.

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  14. 14
    catclub says:

    I guess this is more relevant here than the tail end of the other post.

    I see that as implicitly backing Northam to stay. If everybody did it (ummm, maybe everybody who was white at the time) then nobody gets punished for doing it then. Kind of like drunk driving was for a looong time. (I would suggest fewer fatalities from one than the other.)

    I would recommend Northam wait a few weeks to decide. I can imagine that the attention will move on.

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  15. 15
    But her emails!!! says:

    At least Herring appears to have exposed his own BS, but I’m thinking that any future white men who want to run as Democrats need to sign some sort of statement confirming they have not appeared in blackface.

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  16. 16
    Elizabelle says:

    I was in college in the late 70s. In Virginia. I never saw any of this stuff.

    FWIW: Northam’s photo stands out because it is not (apparently) music-related. But do note that on the other side of his college yearbook was a photo of 3 men in blackface, dressed as The Supremes. And Northam apparently was in blackface for a Michael Jackson dance contest. And there is some possibility he may know how to moonwalk.

    And now: dressing like rappers.

    Some of this is racism, but some of it is lunkheads who appreciate black culture and music. Seeing the photo of The “Surpremes” made me think about Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk, there amidst the popularity of “Shag” music (beach music, based on R&B that was not available on commercial “white” radio for some time; came out of the Carolinas, but NC border is just a few miles south of Norfolk.

    ThoughtCo: Dance to the Oldies With These Shag Music Hits
    Beach Music Beats to Put a Swing in Your Step

    If you love to swing dance and you love oldies music, you might be interested in expanding your repertoire to the Shag. Also known as the Carolina Shag, this dance is thought to have originated in the 1940s at the clubs dotting the strands along the beaches of North and South Carolina, although it may have older roots. Since mainstream radio stations in the South during this time didn’t play black music, white teenagers flocked to these beachside clubs, where they could hear, and dance to, a wide range of music being played on the jukeboxes.

    While it’s impossible to tease out which came first, the Shag or the particular style of music to which it is danced, by the late 1940s the two went hand in hand. The dance itself is a six-count, eight-step pattern, similar to swing, that is performed with a partner to what is now known as “beach music,” which combines elements of R&B, blues, and rock and roll.

    Here are some of the most popular of the traditional shag songs:

    Billy Ward and the Dominos, “Sixty Minute Man”
    The Platters, “With This Ring”
    The O’Kaysions, “Girl Watcher”
    Lil’ Bob and the Lollipops, “I Got Loaded”
    The Showmen, “39-21-46”
    Willie Tee, “Teasin’ You”
    Bruce Channel, “Hey! Baby”
    The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup”
    J.J. Jackson, “But It’s Alright”
    Jackie Moore, “Sweet Charlie Babe”
    The Swingin’ Medallions, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love”
    Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs, “Stay”
    Brenton Wood, “Gimme Little Sign”
    The Fiestas, “So Fine”
    Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, “Too Late to Turn Back Now”
    Archie Bell & the Drells, “Tighten Up”
    Ben E. King, “Stand by Me”
    Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “Work With Me Annie”
    Freda Payne, “Band of Gold”
    The Temptations, “My Girl”
    Jackie Wilson, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”
    Gene Chandler, “Duke of Earl”
    Benny Spellman, “Lipstick Traces”
    The Globetrotters, “Rainy Day Bells”
    The Clovers, “Nip Sip”
    Louis Jordan, “Saturday Night Fish Fry”

    What do you notice about a lot (not all) of those artists?

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  17. 17
    The Moar You Know says:

    I owe commenter Sasha an apology. The other day, during a discussion about Northam, I said there was no fucking way a white college student in 1984 could have not known that putting on “black face” was an aggressively racist thing to do. She said she knew white people who wouldn’t have thought it was big deal. She was right.

    I graduated from high school in 1984, San Diego. I was never presented with any reason to do it, so I didn’t, but I wouldn’t have thought much of it at the time if I had. Nobody I knew here would have thought much of it at the time, save for black folks, but I didn’t grow up with any (San Diego was and is very Hispanic but there’s very few black people living here).

    I should add that at that time I found racism appalling; my family was from the Deep South, I had relatives who were in the Klan and used “nigger” not only as a noun but as a verb (it can be done) and I found them utterly horrendous, disgusting people and most of the people I went to high school with would have felt the same.

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  18. 18
    catclub says:

    @ChrisS: Compare this with admitting to having driven drunk 30 years ago. Which causes more harm?
    Which gets a pass today?

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  19. 19
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Yarrow: But the more admissions the less the unique horror of any given one, right? If Herring had been the first one it would be a different story, I think.

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  20. 20
    geg6 says:

    There are adults here in Western PA today who think it’s not a big deal. As for the early 80s, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see it. People who don’t live in places where racism has been and is common have no understanding as to how common things like this were/are and many people are shocked that it offends anyone. They will tell you that it’s a compliment to dress up as Curtis Blow for a party. Now, I will say that I can’t imagine anyone putting on a Klan hood, but the Michael Jackson/Curtis Blow/Supremes blackface would have been completely acceptable in the late 70s/early 80s when I was in high school and college. I wouldn’t have done it because I simply was not brought up with the same values as many I grew up and went to school with, but it wasn’t uncommon. There were really only two black families who had kids at my high school, the Kings and the Dorsetts (yes, Tony Dorsett was one of them). No one was inviting them to parties anyway. Hell, I got called things because I sometimes hung out with Sheree Dorsett at lunch.

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  21. 21
    Elizabelle says:

    @But her emails!!!:

    Wait until the videos of younger peeps show up, performing from Eminem and The Chronic and more hardcore rap.

    Beto in a dress is going to look … winsome.

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  22. 22

    @Major Major Major Major: Why?
    I have to confess I find nothing more mind boggling than the issue of race in this country. Many times I will confess I just don’t get it, especially the defensive reactions of white people.

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  23. 23
    Elizabelle says:

    Listening to my man Dre with The Chronic. Youtube.

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  24. 24
    But her emails!!! says:

    @catclub:
    I don’t think he’s doing it to bolster Northam. He’s assuming the goods on him are also out there and getting in front of a potential release because it improves his chance of political survival.

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  25. 25
    ChrisS says:

    @catclub: Either/both? Doesn’t matter to me. People make mistakes in the course of growing up, I made plenty, but that’s not who I am now. If a person fails to recognize their mistake and accept responsibility for it, then their deeds are still reflective of their personality and character.

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  26. 26
    Anonymous At Work says:

    1. Who could have known that former Confederate states would have a significantly lower bar for what’s considered “racist”, especially closer to the Civil Rights period than the current day?
    2. Owned up to it, college freshman, music-related. Insensitive and stupid. I’m not the one deciding but I can live with a decision to move past it. Northam was older and in medical school. Too stupid to move past.

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  27. 27
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    It’s not just white people from America as I’m sure you’re aware. Liam Neeson recently admitted he wanted to murder a black man in an interview. He’s from the British Isles.

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  28. 28
    divF says:

    High school in the late 1960’s in DC, never saw or heard of anything like it.

    (Nor in Berkeley in the 1970’s, but that somehow is less surprising).

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  29. 29
    catclub says:

    @But her emails!!!:

    I don’t think he’s doing it to bolster Northam.

    I don’t think he is either, but the result is as I said, implicit support for Northam, since he is not also announcing he is resigning.

    Now if he then resigns it will put pressure on Northam to resign.

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  30. 30
    Elizabelle says:

    @catclub: I think Northam should stay.

    I would not think that if he was George Allen and there was years of this crap out there. Along with policies that make it harder for people of color and all Virginians/Americans.

    But that is not Northam.

    And I cannot stand knee jerk purity signaling.

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  31. 31

    @schrodingers_cat: As I recall, it was part of a group costume by management to dress up as the group of administrators who were on their shit list.

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  32. 32

    I can see why blackface is so insulting to black people given the history of Jim Crow and racism in this country. Wearing my outsider hat I can say that black face is not remotely funny. Punching down is never funny.

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  33. 33
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    @Elizabelle: Because of course no Republican politician in Virginia ever dressed in blackface or Klan robes or said or did anything racist.

    To be clear, what I’m reacting to is the idea that the GOP can enjoy this as a past which only Virginia Democrats have in their closet.

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  34. 34
    Yarrow says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Yes, you could be correct with that interpretation as well.

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  35. 35

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: Liam Neeson can go fuck himself, for all I care. Bigotry is not the preserve of Americans alone (white or otherwise).

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  36. 36

    So what’s going on with the allegations against Lt. Gov. Fairfax? I’ve been under the impression that it’s a nothingburger. If the Lt. Gov. becomes Gov., do they appoint a new Lt. Gov.?

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  37. 37
    Wild Cat says:

    @schrodingers_cat: You’ve been the voice of reason since the beginning on this.

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  38. 38
    Searcher says:

    A Modest Proposal For A Resolution To This Situation.

    We — Democrats who don’t wear blackface and are appalled that there are people younger than 90 who grew up thinking it was acceptable — can’t force the Virginia Gov at AG to resign, nor can we force the Lt Gov to resign if the claims against him are substantiated.

    What we — or rather, what the State & County Democratic Committees of Virginia could do — is censor them, shun them, remove them from the membership roles, and make clear that they will never again receive the endorsement or support of the Party in any future elections, whether they run for re-election, dog-catcher, or President.

    If the censored members choose not to resign their offices afterwards, there is nothing more for the Democratic Party to do, and that can be the end of it, as far as we are concerned.

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  39. 39
    Timurid says:

    @Yarrow:

    I wonder if that explains Northam’s erratic and seemingly irrational behavior last weekend, going from “I’m very sorry” to “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
    Did he get some warning that this was happening and decide that he had to brazen it out no matter what, to keep the first domino from falling?

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  40. 40
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    Christ. Talk about no self-awareness. Or they were aware and just didn’t give a shit. I think not giving a shit is worse, honestly.

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    jl says:

    Just don’t call for a resignation in the midst of breaking news, is all. Let things cool a big, and see what the person says, those who have to work and govern with the person say. Is all I’m asking.

    I will not raise my hand. I never did it, never saw anyone do it, never heard of anyone doing blackface growing up in Central California. California has plenty of systematic racism of all kinds. We have plenty of ghettos of various sorts, and often the bigshots planned it and like it that way, and in many places, the whites do to. I call California a slave state based on how the government and the whites enslaved and genocided California Native Americans for almost 30 years, from 1850 to the 1870s.

    But, you know, I never seen a party where whites, on their own, get up like any other race and do some weird group racial re-enactment of bad stuff that happened in the past. I remember charity event festivals thrown by local Hispanic social clubs out in the sticks as a kid, and they would invite everyone to come and bring their sombreros and whatnot. Some whites did and some didn’t. I never saw whites throw a sombrero and serape party, though I am sure in many CA places those did happen.

    I can drive to places that have heritage festivals and we get demos, cooking demos we can eat Native American food, Californio food, Gold Rush miner food, blah blah. I’m white so not for me to say whether it is culturally appropriate and sensitive or not, but looks like they try and get local people of appropriate heritage to do the various cultural demonstrations. A Native American person will run the Native American story telling workshop, for example. I’ve never seen cosplay where the white miner drives a bunch of Native Americans to the mines to work and starve them to death mining gold.

    So, something different seems to go on, or went on, in other parts of the country, and I don’t understand it.

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  42. 42
    Wild Cat says:

    @Kent: This is Virginia. It’s a far from you as England is from me.

    You wouldn’t believe the racism I grew with in NYC and NJ in the 1960s, 1970s, and into my young adulthood well into the 1980s until people started shutting their yaps and closeting it.

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  43. 43
    different-church-lady says:

    [sigh] Fine. I’ll be governor of Virginia.

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  44. 44
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    @catclub: I’d rather see an airing of past sins and some long painful conversations with their black colleagues and constituents. If anybody wants forgiveness, first they’re going to have to own it and do some penance, not dismiss it or minimize it.
    When this mess first started, I started asking myself, “well suppose you’re a young person with political aims and you did in fact do some stupid racist shit in college or high school. What do you do now?” And that’s kind of the thought I had, better to rip the bandage off at the start of your career so this stuff can’t fester and bite you later.

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  45. 45
    Ajabu says:

    I have friends who performed in a production of “Day of Absence”.
    Not the same thing, people!

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  46. 46
    The Moar You Know says:

    A Modest Proposal For A Resolution To This Situation.

    We — Democrats who don’t wear blackface and are appalled that there are people younger than 90 who grew up thinking it was acceptable — can’t force the Virginia Gov at AG to resign, nor can we force the Lt Gov to resign if the claims against him are substantiated.

    What we — or rather, what the State & County Democratic Committees of Virginia could do — is censor them, shun them, remove them from the membership roles, and make clear that they will never again receive the endorsement or support of the Party in any future elections, whether they run for re-election, dog-catcher, or President.

    If the censored members choose not to resign their offices afterwards, there is nothing more for the Democratic Party to do, and that can be the end of it, as far as we are concerned.

    @Searcher: So, unilateral disarmament endorsed by a brand-new commenter. What a shock. Straight to the pie list.

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  47. 47
    rikyrah says:

    When you are on a campus where the hot thing politically is divestment in South Africa, and you have protest shantytowns…no phucking way you don’t think that Blackface IS NOT racist.

    Period.

    The excuses for grown azz folks..
    Just stop.
    Just say, yes, they were phucking racist.
    These are the 1980s versions of the Kentucky Catholic School Guys 😒😒

    ReplyReply
  48. 48

    @Wild Cat: Thanks. I think its because I am not emotionally vested in this issue. There are other issues about which I am not objective.

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  49. 49
    Sebastian says:

    This is a coup by scandal.

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  50. 50
    Fair Economist says:

    Good to see somebody knows how to apologize. I never did it myself, but I know in the 70’s and 80’s I wouldn’t have thought blackface was a big deal. People do learn.

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  51. 51
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @schrodingers_cat: especially the defensive reactions of white people.
    If you’ve ever seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? a movie about rich 60s liberals whose daughter falls in love with Sidney Poitier (cringe-inducingly preachy and treacly self-righteous in a lot of parts, with Joanne Worley singing un-ironically, but a great performance by Spencer Tracy, IMHO), Katharine Hepburn says that they’ve taught their daughter that racists are “sometimes hateful, usually stupid and always, always wrong.” White people called racist know they’re being called stupid. They don’t care so much about the moral aspects of it, but don’t call them stupid.

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  52. 52
    DonnaK says:

    The moral of the story is not to nominate anyone who was a young, privileged white male in Virginia in the 1980s.

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  53. 53
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    Sadly it’s not. Neeson has been typecast for a long time it seems, so his career was pretty much over anyway in any meaningful sense.

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  54. 54
    CliosFanboy says:

    Damn, I was an undergrad from 1977-1981 and lived in my frat house (Sigma Chi) and I never saw anyone wear blackface. But then, I didn’t go to college in the south. OTOH, I DID go to college in Indiana and it’s not exactly on the forefront of racial harmony either…

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  55. 55
    Yarrow says:

    This whole saga should be a warning to all Democratic candidates out there. Pay someone who knows what they’re doing to do oppo research on you. If they turn up stuff, get it out early, have a response prepared and get past it. Having stuff like this come out once you’re already in office is way more damaging.

    Seriously, I don’t know how this sort of thing wasn’t discovered earlier. Yearbooks from schools a candidate attended should be pretty easy to research.

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  56. 56

    @rikyrah: They were racist in the 1980s. Idiotic and entitled, like you said the Covington Boys. The question is whether they still are. Should they resign and hand victory to the Rs who are racist in the here and now.

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  57. 57
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @The Moar You Know:
    You’ve already pied me so perhaps somebody else can point this out to you, but I’ve seen Searcher before.

    ReplyReply
  58. 58
    Ceci7 says:

    It’s trivializing to refer people’s reckoning about the way forward from these revelations as purity signaling.

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  59. 59
    jl says:

    @different-church-lady: ” Fine. I’ll be governor of Virginia. ”

    Sounds OK. But where’s Baud 2020! Looks like a chance for some name recognition. Asleep at the switch again, I guess.

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  60. 60
    CliosFanboy says:

    @jl: George Allen, our former governor and one-term republican US senator from Virginia was famous for hanging a CSA flag in his office when he was out of college, stuffed a dead dear head in the mailbox of a black family, and kept a noose in his office.

    he was a California native…

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  61. 61
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @catclub:

    Compare this with admitting to having driven drunk 30 years ago. Which causes more harm?
    Which gets a pass today?

    The reason most Dem politicians feel Northam has to go is that Dems can’t win if African-Americans don’t vote. (A problem Republicans obviously don’t have.)

    There’s nothing similar going on with drunk drivers.

    Cynical, I know. But I yam what I yam.

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  62. 62
  63. 63
    different-church-lady says:

    Meanwhile the woman who has a smattering of actual Native American in her background continues to be raked over the coals for “pretending to be someone she’s not”.

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  64. 64

    As a Gator Alum I guarantee you white frat boys were insanely racist back in the 80s.

    I blogged a take at my site. Can’t link to it atm am on lunch break but will link it later.

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  65. 65
    Searcher says:

    @The Moar You Know: Actually, you’re missing the part where Republicans get nothing.

    If we’re operating under the assumption that the Governor — fairly or unfairly — is now a turd with no political future, he’s not running for re-election or anything else ever again anyway, and assuming there’s a politician in Virginia who hasn’t dressed up in blackface they’ll be running for the office next year.

    Northam resigning is presumably bad, because Republicans would try to shoot the moon and finagle the entire Democratic executive branch to resign.

    The argument underway is whether it is more important for Democrats to maintain the nebulous “moral high ground” by not supporting Northam or to keep the Republicans from ratfucking their way to control.

    But we can do both: Northam no longer needs our support, he’s governor. We can disavow him for his actions, make a clean break, and then leave him in place to do his job as governor for the next four years.

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  66. 66
    different-church-lady says:

    @jl: I think I have a better chance: I wouldn’t even allow them to put my picture in the yearbook.

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  67. 67
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Kent: Your recollections are similar to my experience at the University of Florida (class of 1988), which wasn’t exactly known as a bastion of enlightenment. I remain amazed that anyone could think this was okay back then.

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  68. 68
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @jl:
    I want to be God-Emperor of Earth. Only I can fix it!
    I know your anger, I know your dreams. I’ve been everything you want to be. I’m every person you need to be. Only you can set me free. I sell the things you need to be. I’m the smiling face on your T.V. //

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  69. 69
    jl says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I do remember that, coming out of college and having learned me history and civics stuff in my general ed courses, that I thought at the time, there was a lot of overt racism in the1980s. I remember thinking, ‘how come all these old white farts get to sit around and say all this racist crap on the TV pundit shows?”

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  70. 70
    BobS says:

    I’m surprised that so many people who grew up in the 1980’s- which were just as close to the 1950’s as they are to now- are actually surprised that stuff like this went on, particularly in the former Confederacy (which was even closer to the 1950’s), as well as Hollywood (the movie Soul Man- should we be asking James Earl Jones and Julia Louis Dreyfus to explain their appearance in the film?). I believe Herring when he says he was (ignorantly) appropriating black culture. I don’t give that pass to Northam- both for the far more egregious photo including a Klansman, as well as his all-over-the-place explanation. Fairfax is a little more complicated- I’m more inclined to believe his accuser, but until there’s some evidence of her contemporaneously telling some other person about the alleged assault, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

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  71. 71
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    So he was a scumbag racist then.

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  72. 72
    Kent says:

    Honestly I’m of mixed opinions on all of this.

    Regarding Northam. He just shat all over the issue by his inconsistent and nonsensical responses. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy.

    Regarding the issue in general. This strikes me as a particular form of delayed punishment for all the casual racism that was infused in white society in the past (and still is). People like Northam have lived a privileged life, especially in the South, that was built in part on racism. This is perhaps one small way in which the chickens are coming back to roost. Honestly I think it is more of a tip of the iceberg sort of thing. These things like the blackface photos are just the tiny exposed tip of what was (and still is) an inherently racist society that mostly stays cleverly hidden or deniable.

    I don’t know what the answer is and really don’t think as a middle aged white guy that it is my place to judge what kinds of past behavior we judge acceptable and what was beyond the pale. I think it is incumbent on these guys (its mostly or all middle aged white guys right?) to chart their own path through this mess that they have made. I am somewhat wary of overturning elections for reasons that don’t rise to impeachable offenses. But they definitely have some explaining to do and some true contrition if they want to save their careers. And it’s not people like me that they have to convince.

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  73. 73
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA 1980-82. Never once saw anyone at a party or otherwise in blackfaces and certainly not in a Klan hood.

    I’m starting to think this phenomenon is related to the “upper class” white kids who had to belong to Fraternities and Sororities because of their social standing, family ties and future career choices. Seriously, our campus had been a predominantly female one until the mid to late 70’s and was probably one of the more non-traditional student bodies in Virginia because of it. They “outlawed” Frats/Sororities on campus because of the divisiveness and trouble they tend to create.

    This is a mess. At least Herring did what Northam should have done: copped to it, talked about how stupid and ignorant he was of how it hurt other people and how his outlook and behaviors, including his career, have been better.

    It’s ok to be a insulated, privileged young person who does a dumb thing as long as it’s something you realize and feel shame enough about to help change your trajectory in life.

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  74. 74
    jl says:

    @different-church-lady: Baud 2020! is virtual. There is no picture. That’s better. If only it would lead.

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  75. 75
    Searcher says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: I also used to comment as Jack the Second, not with any particular frequency, but am undergoing nym consolidation across several sites.

    Not that it should matter, either I’m an asshole troll who should be pied, or I am a regular asshole saying idiotic things who should be argued with, regardless of tenure.

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  76. 76

    My personal attitude toward all this is that I care a lot more about what these people have done in the 30+ years since they were in college. The pain from discovering this stuff is now, but the offense was long ago. As long as it truly was an isolated, relatively minor offense and the person who did it has a good track record to show that they’ve reformed, they ought to be able to get away with a sincere apology. I just don’t see how we can survive as a political party- or as a society- if we treat any offense, no matter how long ago, how sincerely renounced, and how thoroughly buried by years of being on the right side of the issue, as a permanent bar on holding public office. We have to accept that people on the wrong side of an issue can change sides without having them be permanently suspect.

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  77. 77
    JR says:

    We haven’t even scratched the surface of the homophobic statements and actions that were de rigeur in the 1990s and beyond. That reckoning is yet to come.

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  78. 78
    tobie says:

    Oh boy…another day I’ll need to do a news blackout. This is so awful.

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  79. 79
    different-church-lady says:

    @Kent: The hard part of the question is: how much do you hold an individual responsible for they culture they grow up in?

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  80. 80
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @geg6: Yes, come to think of it I was with one of uncles who is from Western Pen and he was calling 80s rock “Nigger Music” (because nothing says African American like a synthesizer) and being totally unimpressed with him and thinking this is what drinking to much cheap beer does to a guy.

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  81. 81
    jl says:

    @CliosFanboy: Well, maybe that is why he left. Part of rural California where I grew up, that stuff would have been not acceptable at all. Some whites felt that way, but they had to keep it to themselves, or people would talk about the stupid racist you should stay away from.

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  82. 82
    guachi says:

    I’m in the Navy. I had a conversation with a Sailor around Halloween last year and he had no idea why blackface would be considered racist. He was surprised when I told him people were fired for it and fraternities had been thrown off campus.

    I like the guy. He’s a good Sailor. And he was shocked when I told him that if he put on blackface while still in the Navy that the punishment should be to get kicked out.

    Lots of people are still clueless.

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  83. 83
    NotMax says:

    Years from now stuff that’s out there on Twtitbook, Facegram, etc., is going to be a motherlode of trouble for what are today future political leaders. All accessible at the push of a button.

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  84. 84
    WhatsMyNym says:

    She said she knew white people who wouldn’t have thought it was big deal. She was right.

    One of the reasons I left the midwest was the racism, and I’m very white (but from another country). I’m not surprised at all.

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  85. 85
    CliosFanboy says:

    @jl: he was from southern California, near San Diego. So he was from a pretty conservative part of the state.

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  86. 86
    different-church-lady says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    …and thinking this is what drinking too much cheap beer does to a guy.

    I’m not so sure you’ve correctly identified which is the cause and which is the effect.

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  87. 87
    rikyrah says:

    I have lived in a world, my entire life, where the moment I hit adolescence, I was told..

    ” No, your Black behind can’t do what your little White friends can…so, don’t you get caught up in their mess.”

    That there are no second chances for Black kids. You navigate in a space where there is no room for error, because error can mean becoming a guest of the Prison Industrial Complex, or not coming home ever.

    To see muthaphuckas 😠 who deliberately and willfully were hateful STILL being given excuses years later …..

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  88. 88

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: his younger brother is lovely, I dunno where he got it from.

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  89. 89
    Kay says:

    Good apology, though. I don’t think the key is “find people who have never done bad things”. I think the key is how it’s gotten through and where we end up after.

    I don’t see any point in denying that it’s a problem. Their voters don’t care about this and ours do care about it. That’s all you need to know.

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  90. 90
    Avalune says:

    When I was either about to finish elementary school or go into middle school – which would have been 80s in middle Ohio – my mother dressed me as Buckwheat for Halloween. Blackface, teased hair, a sweatshirt that said “Wookin pa nub.” I was young and didn’t know any better – plus I’d have never gone against her because she was HAPPY and not beating me or calling me ugly and stupid.

    That said, I’m not too sad if this disqualifies me from holding government office.

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  91. 91
    different-church-lady says:

    @NotMax:

    Years from now stuff that’s out there on Twtitbook, Facegram, etc., is going to be a motherlode of trouble for what are today future political leaders.

    [sigh] Fine. I’ll be president of the United States…

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  92. 92
    BobS says:

    @rikyrah: Do you think Herring was being hateful or ignorant?

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  93. 93

    Herring sounds like he understands how he was wrong then and is properly remorseful. However, that’s only my impression, and it’s not up to me to decide. Like with Northam, I will follow what the Virginia black caucus decides. They have the experience and stake and are the best I’m going to get to a consensus of the victims. They said they gave Northam a chance, and he fucked it up and they want him out. So, I want Northam out. Will Herring satisfy them? I’ll wait and see.

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  94. 94
    Big Jim Slade says:

    I was in high school and college in the 80s, growing up in Los Angeles. My knowledge of blackface, until I was maybe 20 or 21, was that it went along with some old-timey vaudeville stuff. The real social issues just sort of didn’t come up. The whole blackface thing rarely came up in the first place. I mean, I knew that it was a product of our racist history, but it just sort of seemed situational (kind of harmless instead of really ugly) until you learn more… Smog and the price of gasoline (and the availability of it for a while in the 70s) were much bigger deals. My parents were never very particularly attuned to social justice issues.

    I grew up in a very white part of town, but with an African-American family right by us. As I learned some racial stereotypes, I felt really lucky to have those neighbors, because I had a lifelong example of these totally excellent people to ward off that sort of thing.

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  95. 95
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @different-church-lady:
    Is this a meme or something?

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  96. 96
    Emma says:

    @Roger Moore: That ship sailed a while ago. Democrats have positioned themselves as the moral party. I understand why it is necessary. You can’t have a big tent without paying attention to old moral crimes against one or more of the members. Unfortunately, we have not decided whether there’s a repentance—> forgiveness path, and in most cases where it has been discussed, the answer has been no. So… all democratic sins are permanent stains, all republican sins are automatically no sins at all. As a party, we are in deep doo-doo. As I’ve said before, I’ve led the most PG life possible and I wouldn’t dare run for office. Too many possible sins.

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  97. 97
    guachi says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: Liam Neeson would have wanted to murder anyone who fit the description of the person who attacked his friend. That the person was black was incidental to Neeson’s rage.

    Neeson’s problem wasn’t racism, it was irrational rage.

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  98. 98
    different-church-lady says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: A micro-meme, perhaps.

    I think they used to call it a “shtick.”

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  99. 99
    Kay says:

    @NotMax:

    Years from now stuff that’s out there on Twtitbook, Facegram, etc., is going to be a motherlode of trouble for what are today future political leaders. All accessible at the push of a button.

    Kids of my acquaintance have an actual theory about this, and it’s not a bad theory. They think the sheer volume and neat-universality of the problem will protect them. If everyone has it then no one has it.

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  100. 100
    different-church-lady says:

    @guachi: And if I understand what he was saying correctly, he meant to highlight the fact that it was irrational.

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  101. 101
    DanR2 says:

    I graduated college in 1987. People are seriously overestimating how socially active or racially/culturally aware white college students were in the 80s.

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  102. 102

    @Elizabelle:

    And I cannot stand knee jerk purity signaling.

    There’s more to it than knee jerk purity signaling. Blackface is genuinely offensive, and discovering that an elected official dressed up in blackface is a huge shock, especially to their black supporters. I can understand why groups like NAACP want to make a big deal of it, and why other people feel a need to back NAACP up on this even if they aren’t personally offended. I agree that this needs to be looked at as something that happened half a lifetime ago and not as something that the offenders did recently, but I can understand where the anger and demands for resignation come from.

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  103. 103
    rikyrah says:

    @NotMax:
    ICAM.

    People put too much shyt on social media

    I mean..,🙄🙄🙄
    There are plenty of stories about people being denied jobs because of a company looking up their social media, and folks still don’t seem to get it.😒

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  104. 104
    gene108 says:

    Knew white guys, in college, who wouldn’t know if they were being racist or not, and this probably included blackface.

    They weren’t consciously racist, but so much bigotry is so overwhelming, people end up absorbing these biases unconsciously, with regards to the way people should look, sound, etc. This is why all the stuff about microagressions and the like are coming out now, as people try to weed these unconscious biases out of society.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if a 19 year old kid decided to put on brown make-up to look like a rapper, and not realize blacks would be offended, 20-30 years ago. Edit: Because in their minds, they are just trying to get the costume right.

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  105. 105
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    I was in grade school in the early sixties. I remember for the elementary talent show, some white girls wanted to put on blackface, dress up as Martha and the Vandellas, and sing ‘Dancing in the Streets.’ I was, and still am, under the distinct impression that this was a form of hero worship and not racism. The song was very popular at the time.
    I still remember the shocked and hurt looks on their faces when our teachers told them in no uncertain terms that what they were suggesting could be very offensive to the black teachers and students. Looking back on it after all these years, I am completely certain that these girls really didn’t understand why it was wrong. They just wanted to dress up like their hero singers.

    That was in Texas in the early 60’s… so yes, fucking Northam and Herring knew it was wrong! Either that or they are so fucking clueless they should resign immediately and start selling aluminum siding.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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  106. 106
    Big Jim Slade says:

    @Big Jim Slade: Fwiw, I was also in a frat during college (Cal) and no one ever suggested wearing blackface for any freakin’ reason.

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  107. 107
    Kent says:

    FYI, here’s my own blackface story.

    A few years ago I was a teacher at a big diverse public high school in Waco TX. The school was maybe 25% black and 25% Hispanic. One of the traditions was that they had this pep squad that were kind of the anti-cheerleaders. It was a group of male and female students who would dress crazy and go out and do silly cheers during football games and would be the ones who would circle the field with the giant flags after scores. On one road game out to a rural (and mostly all-white) school in the country I noticed that the students were doing a “blackout” theme where they were all dressed in black (the students in the student section were wearing black t-shirts). The regular school colors were red and blue so this was different. What startled me was to see the boys in the pep squad running around in the field covered completetely in black paint or makeup. They were entirely blackened up. They weren’t doing the big white lips thing, just entirely black. This was maybe 2014 so not long ago.

    I remember thinking “wow…this is really inappropriate”. As an outsider from the Northwest teaching down in the south at the time I was pretty much tuned and and observant of all the casual racism still going on down there out of curiousity, almost like an anthropologist I guess. I remember looking around the stands at our fans wondering is anyone else noticing or bothered by this? There were a lot of black parents in our stands because the football team itself was at least 50% black. I guess they were shrugging it off, I don’t know. The other teams fans were practically all white. But it bothered me enough that I went down to find the teacher who was the faculty advisor for the pep squad to give him a piece of my mind. He was a 30-something math teacher and was kind of surprised and just shrugged it off saying “I’m sure they aren’t meaning anything by it” which was probably true. The same kids were just as likely to paint themselves blue or red on other game days. But still. I found it somewhat strange that I seemed to be the only one who noticed how inappropriate it felt.

    I have to wonder if some day photos of those kids wearing black paint will surface and we’ll go through all this again.

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  108. 108
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @gene108: Megan Kelly said this a couple of months ago

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  109. 109
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Emma:

    So… all democratic sins are permanent stains, all republican sins are automatically no sins at all.

    That’s only because the R’s have absolutely no moral compasses at all. I think the guy in the Virginia House of Delegates who justified blocking local communities from removing Confederate statues as discriminating against “Confederate national origin” should be forced to resign. Steve King too. That’s evidence right there those blowhards don’t actually give a shit about blackface. This shit is probably in their backgrounds too and should be exposed.

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  110. 110

    @different-church-lady: memes are a major warning sign of incipient social media use, you know.

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  111. 111
    different-church-lady says:

    @gene108: Hell, what does it say that a white kid wanted to be a black pop star? It might be warped, but there’s admiration at the heart of it, not insult.

    White guy I knew went to a Halloween party as… (wait for it…) Obama in 2010. I saw the pictures and changed the subject.

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  112. 112
    different-church-lady says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Do you need to use your shtick more than twice for it to be a meme?

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  113. 113
    Searcher says:

    @different-church-lady: Neeson is a good example of needing to stop your story one step earlier.

    If Neeson had just confessed to feeling a racist irrational anger, and how he now felt ashamed and how misguided it was, you could say, that’s very big of you to admit.

    But when you add in the part of then going to look for someone to murder on the basis of their race, yeah, that’s something else.

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  114. 114
    Brickley Paiste says:

    I assume all of the knee-jerk purity ponies who insisted that Northam resign (especially those who did so before he even addressed the matter) will continue their calls that he resign along with the alleged rapist Lt. Gov and the blackface wearing AG.

    If wearing blackface 35 or 40 years ago as part of some terribly misguided attempt at humor warrants resignation, what about Elizabeth Warren who declared on an official legal document that she was Native American 20 years ago?

    Oh and have we forgotten about Joy Reid who repeatedly made vile, homophobic remarks in a blog decade or so ago and then, in the past year, repeatedly lied about it claiming that her blog had been “hacked” when, in fact, the Internet Archive had multiple captures of her disgusting slurs?

    C’mon all you purity ponies, start beating the drum to demand unimpeachable moral purity from our politicians and medial allies !!!

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  115. 115

    @Ceci n est pas mon nym:

    And that’s kind of the thought I had, better to rip the bandage off at the start of your career so this stuff can’t fester and bite you later.

    Sure, but what if it wasn’t seen as disqualifying, or even out of the ordinary, when you started your career? You might not think there’s anything to confess until enough time had passed that you’d forgotten- especially because thinking it wasn’t out of the ordinary might lead you to honestly forget about it. And I think this is exactly the issue. Somebody with political ambitions would try to steer clear of something they thought was disqualifying, so they were only likely to do something like this because they honestly didn’t recognize it as a problem.

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  116. 116
    Waynski says:

    I’ll raise my hand to being a 1980s college student, but black face? Nuh uh, and I went to SUNY Oneonta, which is renowned for its Halloween celebration. BTW – no one else among 6,000 students did that either.

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  117. 117
    Kay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I think the Northam photo is a genuinely ugly visual hit, and that’s why it struck so hard. The Klan hood really takes it up a notch to WTF was he thinking. And that’s the question. Now what was he wearing. What was he thinking. This latest apology at least addresses the right question. I don’t think Northam gets it at all or he wouldn’t have been babbling about the clothes and the MAKE UP. Not it! Not the thing!

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  118. 118
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The Shaggy memes really blew up recently. And they were hilarious.

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  119. 119

    @different-church-lady: I think other people have to start using it as a template? It’s not an exact science.

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  120. 120
    Soprano2 says:

    I live in SWMO. Two years ago we had a customer in her early 60’s dress in blackface and an orange jumpsuit for our bar’s Halloween party. Her husband dressed like a prison guard. Two.Years.Ago. What could we say – they’re regular customers and nice people. It was cringeworthy to me but a lot of people thought it was funny.

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  121. 121
    different-church-lady says:

    @Major Major Major Major: And it has to go beyond a sub-top 10,000 blog, yes?

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  122. 122
    Emma says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: they can be exposed, I agree. The problem is that their voters will keep on voting for them. THERE IS NO DOWNSIDE for them. Usually it wouldn’t bother me at all but we are on the razor blade of politics at the moment. Losing a governor AND other officials in an important state makes me nervous. But I am deferring this to AA democrats to decide.

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  123. 123
    NotMax says:

    Only slightly before my time the fraternity I joined in college had been summarily kicked out of the national organization because that chapter had admitted African-Americans. They immediately reorganized as an independent frat.

    None of the frat houses on campus were of the live-in type, all were primarily social venues. The one I joined didn’t do pledging or any of that crap. Pay the dues ($5 per year) and you were a member. Having ready 24/7 hour access to a fully equipped kitchen and what then passed for a big screen TV were the pluses for me. The bulk of the money to keep the place going came from renting out part of the basement (top notch acoustics there) to bands as rehearsal space.

    @different-church-lady:

    No complaints here.

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  124. 124
    ET says:

    As a child of the south not much younger than the governor I have been thinking on this.

    It may be obvious now that it was always unacceptable to don blackface but in the south and for white males in the south, I am not so sure. I was at Alabama in the late 1980’s though 1991 and KA was still having Old South Week where all the guys would grow out their beards and climb ingo Confederate gear for the main party. No one really questioned it including me, and was more evolved than many of my fellow white students, but I was still a child of the south who spent way too much time in Mississippi.

    White males in the south were a cloistered coddled bunch (hence why they are so angry now about all the “others”) it would likely have never have occurred to many of them even then, that blackface/Old South Week was offensive. Sure some guys are just utter a-holes, but most college guys just aren’t that reflective. I have a feeling that many of them wouldn’t have been doing it to go out of their way to incite anything or be deliberately offensive by blackface/Confederate costumes but “wasn’t that just the way it was”? 1984 was only 20 years after the Civil Rights legislation – and while that may seem like a long time it really wasn’t all that long ago, not really. Particularly when you are taking about southerners who still seemed to have been fighting the Civil War. I remember in the early 1990s when people were beginning to question the Confederate flag on campus and Old South Week. Things gote heated — one side was damn, we don’t want this anymore and the other they are taking away our heritage! The intensity and anger was such that you just knew that many whites were angry but also confused because they really didn’t understand why something that wasn’t wrong 5-10 years ago was so wrong.

    We are talking about people like the gov/attorney general who are now in the 40’s and 50’s or 60’s who grew up with that “white male privilege” which is not just about social/racial status, but also never having to think about certain consequences and never having to say you are sorry. These are people who like put this way as a childish thing and haven’t given it a thought since then but who hopefully have changed (even though you know many of them hadn’t).

    All that isn’t to say that what he did was right and how he has handled himself this past week was they way it should have been because he was wrong and he has handled it badly.

    I think the governor’s white male privileged is why he has handled himself so poorly. He never thought much about it, never thought about it later and likely forgot it because it just wan’t all that important to him, and now that he got called on it has no idea how to respond to something that he forgot and never thought he would have to respond to because being a white male in Virginia with a certain background means never having to say you’re sorry.

    That’s it for my unlicensed psychoanalysis that’s worth about 2 cents.

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  125. 125
    Mike in NC says:

    After Dubya, you’d think people would know better than to elect entitled frat boys.

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  126. 126
    Another Scott says:

    @But her emails!!!: Herring is running for governor, so of course he had to comment on it.

    This is very disappointing, to say the least. Herring has been an excellent AG for Virginia and would be an excellent governor.

    I’ve lived in VA since 1989. I didn’t go to school here. But maybe the casual racism had its tendrils in VA colleges and universities for so long that even “good people” couldn’t, or didn’t feel the need to take the effort to, resist it in the 1980s.

    I don’t know. I was one of the loudest voices here saying that Northam had to go. I still think he should (25 is different from 19, and his press conference was a disaster), but Herring’s history has thrown a monkeywrench in it even more than Fairfax …

    :-/

    Cheers,
    Scott.

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  127. 127
    AliceBlue says:

    @different-church-lady: There’s a story on HuffPo with a picture of Warren’s Texas State Bar registration card on which she identifies herself as “American Indian.” More fuel just got added to that fire.

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  128. 128
    Kent says:

    @DanR2:

    I graduated college in 1987. People are seriously overestimating how socially active or racially/culturally aware white college students were in the 80s.

    I was a year ahead of you. What was also going on at the time (at least among whites) was something of a big cultural backlash to the liberal 60s and 70s. A lot of students a few years older than me were still steeped in the 60s and 70s radicalism in their dress and in their music. By the early 1980s it was the early Reagan years and a lot of younger students were showing up much more archly conservative. That’s when a lot of the young Republican clubs started to get popular and we had bunches of students walking around on campus wearing blue blazers and red ties like Michael J Fox on Family Ties. This was at a super liberal west coast college so I can only imagine what it was like in the more conservative south. On the west coast it wasn’t so much of a racist thing as it was a club the damn hippies thing. Maybe it played out differently in other parts of the country.

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  129. 129
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ceci7:

    It’s trivializing to refer people’s reckoning about the way forward from these revelations as purity signaling.

    Trivia should be trivialized.

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  130. 130
    Brickley Paiste says:

    And let’s go ahead and gear up for the next round of purity cleansing …

    Way back in the 1970s (and 1980s, and 1990s, and well, a couple of weeks ago) fraternities across this great land of ours (Dekes for life, yo!) had “South of the Border” parties. The theme an excuse to eat tacos (an LA invention, but nevermind), drink Corona and tequila and so forth.

    [Trigger warning – offensive ethnic clothing wearing]

    Quite a few attendees at these gatherings wore serapes and sombreros. And [I hope you are sitting down dear reader] some attendees even wore waaaaay too much spray tan and even stuck on cheesy little mustaches.

    I have seen the pictures.

    Surely these folks have to resign/fall on their swords/whatever.

    Surely at the moment when our government is putting Latinx children in cages no person of pure moral character (a.k.a. Democrats) can stand idly by an allow such conduct to go unpunished.

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  131. 131
    RAVEN says:

    @jl: Her left because his old man was the coach of the Bears and, gasp the Redskins.

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  132. 132
    ET says:

    @ChrisS: I agree. Shit changes. People changes. The governor’s shitty handling of this is the telling bit.

    I keep thinking back to the PBS series on the creation of Hamilton. Leslie Odom Jr who played Burr says basically says that if everyone was judged because of one act on their worse day then we would all have something to be condemned for.

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  133. 133
    Citizen Alan says:

    Personally, I blame Northam because he handled the matter poorly and because he was 35 at the time and should have known better. I’m willing to give a pass to someone who was an undergrad in 1980 and stupidly wore blackface while pretending to be Michael Jackson. I mean, in 1980, the Dukes of Hazzard was still one of the most popular shows on television. 1980 was only two years after the BBC finally cancelled the Black & White Minstrel Show, which still drew huge ratings at the time. Meanwhile, there are still sororities and fraternities getting into trouble over wearing blackface today. The Kappa Alpha Order fraternity did not its members from wearing Confederate uniforms at public events until 2010.

    In short, as long as a contemporary figure is willing to acknowledge how wrong their actions back in the day were by contemporary standards and have otherwise done nothing to suggest racism, I’m unwilling to consider a decades-old blackface incident during one’s youth as a sin so great it demands removal from office. I also think the idea that

    there was no fucking way a white college student in 1984 could have not known that putting on “black face” was an aggressively racist thing to do

    to be rather naive in light of what America was actually like at the time. Obviously, YMMV.

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  134. 134
    Kay says:

    Larry Sabato
    ‏Verified account
    @LarrySabato
    52m52 minutes ago
    More
    In the Trump era, the only way Republicans can win again statewide is for the Dems to be covered in scandal with a depressed base. (VA is strongly anti-Trump, now at least light Blue.) Hmm…Inside one week, all 3 D statewide officeholders are scandalized. Incredible coincidence.

    At the same time I would be a liar if I said I didn’t see this as blatantly a coordinated political hit, especially alongside the bullshit “infanticide” charge which a simple reading of what he said makes clear that was a bullshit charge.

    But it’s still real. “Incredible coincidence” for Republicans, but all the same real. It can be both things, and to me it is.

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  135. 135
    Elizabelle says:

    Northam the candidate for governor was out way early on calling for the Virginia Confederate monuments to come down.

    I worried it might cost him the election, at the time.

    ReplyReply
  136. 136

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: You may have something there. Thanks for the insight.

    ReplyReply
  137. 137
    Elizabelle says:

    @Citizen Alan: He was 25 at the time. It was 35 years in the past from now.

    ReplyReply
  138. 138

    @JR:

    We haven’t even scratched the surface of the homophobic statements and actions that were de rigeur in the 1990s and beyond.

    This is a big part of what influences my opinion. I know how common homophobic attitudes were when I was in college in the early ’90s, and I’m sure I said some of the same stuff. I’m sure many of the people I knew in college who said and did bigoted stuff back then have genuinely changed their attitudes, and I would prefer that they not all be cast out from polite society now because of what they did back then. At some level “I realized I was wrong and changed my position; look at my record since then” has to be an acceptable defense to being on the wrong side way back when.

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  139. 139
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Kay: At the same time I would be a liar if I said I didn’t see this as blatantly a coordinated political hit, especially alongside the bullshit “infanticide” charge which a simple reading of what he said makes clear that was a bullshit charge.

    It’s being reported, without any hard sourcing that I’ve seen, that the Northam photo was pushed by a med school classmate who was incensed that Northam pointed out that sometimes birth is not a precious miracle but an agonizing medical situation that forces unimaginably painful choices on the parents of newborns

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  140. 140

    Here’s what I wrote a couple days ago.

    The Stink of Racism It Gets Into Everything

    Look, we just had a scandal here in Florida where the appointed Secretary of State Ertel turned out to have worn a racist costume in 2005 that mocked Hurricane Katrina victims. He did this stunt at the age of 35, well aware of the cruelty he was promoting and doing it anyway, As soon as the photos got out, he had to resign because nobody could trust him being fair overseeing elections in a contentious battleground state like ours (even though Ertel’s work history as an Elections Supervisor – fighting against Rick Scott’s voter purges – seemed scandal-free).

    Ertel’s background is about the same as Northam’s. Born in Jacksonville, FL and having lived here for much of his life – except for his time studying at University of Maryland before joining the Army and serving during the 1990s – Ertel has been immersed in the same cultural mess that other Southern Whites grew up in. As much as Northam probably thought it was funny or cool to dress up racist, Ertel thought the same thing. A lot of Southern Whites (and gods help us, more and more Whites nationwide) probably have thought the same thing.

    This is where having hundreds of years of the same social messaging, the same mental conditioning, just gets into everything like the rotting stench of death. Southern Culture is a thing, after all, it’s NASCAR and College Football and Daisy Dukes and Grandma’s Moonshine Whiskey and Redneck Jokes and Pecan/Peach Pie and Dirt Roads under Spanish Moss trees down by the creeks where kids in coveralls fish for dinner. It’s also a rabid history of lynching and vagrancy laws and entire Black towns getting wiped off the maps and Jim Crow and ongoing voter suppression and Confederate Battle Flags shoved into everyone’s faces.

    It gets to where White folk don’t ever see it as a problem, because after all being White in the South has its privileges. White kids grow up in a culture that allows for mocking of minorities – especially Blacks – and embracing the mindset of “rebellion” AND “status quo” that the Confederacy/Lost Cause has come to represent. And then they have kids and pass the privilege onward.

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  141. 141
    Citizen Alan says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Was it Fred Armison who had to wear blackface to play Obama on SNL because they had no black cast members to do it?

    ReplyReply
  142. 142
    Ceci7 says:

    @guachi: Neeson’s problems were anger and racism. Guaranteed he would not have taken his violent plan as far as he did, were black men’s lives not disposable and if he felt there would be real consequences for his vigilantism.

    Impact > intent. That’s a part of the discussion that doesn’t seem to be getting enough emphasis.

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  143. 143

    @Emma:

    You can’t have a big tent without paying attention to old moral crimes against one or more of the members.

    But you also can’t have a bit tent without letting in people who used to be outside it, and that inevitably means some way of forgiving what they did before they joined.

    ReplyReply
  144. 144
    different-church-lady says:

    @PaulWartenberg: We’re all fish and racism is the pollution we’re all forced to swim in.

    ReplyReply
  145. 145
    BobS says:

    @Brickley Paiste: Your point about Reid is well taken- I think homophobia is somewhat of a final hurdle for a lot of otherwise progressively minded people. I’m certain I said things in the past that I wouldn’t today, probably as recently as Reid made her blog comments, and I don’t think I’m particularly unique in that regard.
    There needs to be some room left for people to evolve.

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  146. 146
    burnspbesq says:

    I spent the 1973-74 academic year at W&L. For a kid from the Jersey suburbs, it was another fucking planet.

    The South is still the South. Fairfax County is still not representative of Virginia as a whole. Ralph Northam is of his time and place, nothing more, nothing less. We all can, and should, decry and reject what he did, but to treat it as though he was an outlier is counter-factual.

    ReplyReply
  147. 147
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Elizabelle:

    You know, that actually may change my mind on Northam. Apparently, I’d been misreading that the whole time.

    ReplyReply
  148. 148
    eric says:

    to see that white people did not get it. Look at Animal House: after the boys pick up the Fawn Leibowitz’s friend, they go to a bar. Otis is playing. One of the boys asks one of the girls “what are you studying,” and she says “primitive culture.” The picture immediately shifts to Otis’s head as he sings “papa oo mow mow.” racist as fuck from folks at Harvard and Hollywood.

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  149. 149
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Elizabelle: I think Northam is handling things poorly because he’s so sure that he’s a good guy, and he’s trying to explain and demonstrate what a good guy he is, and he’s not really taking into account the issue of lost trust _beyond_ good guy / not a good guy.

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  150. 150
    Wapiti says:

    I think the Democratic Party might have to start exploring the idea of truth and reconciliation panels. Get the shit out and figure how bad it is. Because keeping it hidden just makes people susceptible to blackmail, these wedge attacks, and gods only know what else.

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  151. 151
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I think other people have to start using it as a template?

    [sigh] Fine. I’ll use it as a template…

    ReplyReply
  152. 152
    different-church-lady says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Shit, there’s goes my presidency…

    ReplyReply
  153. 153
  154. 154
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Kent: During the brouhaha about the MAGA kids from KY, someone unearthed recent photos from that school’s yearbook depicting white kids painted black at a sporting event, and the MAGA kids’ defenders responded that it was a “blackout” game. Lord. Seems unambiguously offensive to me for white people to paint their skin black in any context. It also seems like something so blindingly obvious that no one should have to be told that, no matter who they are or where they’re from. But I’ll stop extrapolating my experience onto the larger world now.

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  155. 155
    Brickley Paiste says:

    @BobS: Not to mention transphobia.

    In all seriousness, I don’t think Reid should have been forced to resign for her initially discovered slurs. She fessed up, apologized, explained that her parents and family were assholes (I think the language she used was that she was “raised in a traditional family”) and so forth. People are imperfect, good people make mistakes, and people change. All of that is true.

    But then when more slurs surfaced she denied it and came up with her “I was hacked” line of bullshit. For that, she should be shitcanned because she is a liar.

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  156. 156
    BobS says:

    @eric: That scene makes me cringe when I watch it now. I don’t remember being similarly effected when I saw Animal House at a drive-in back in 1978, which was just a few years before Northam’s ill-fated photo shoot.

    ReplyReply
  157. 157
    Elizabelle says:

    @Roger Moore:

    you also can’t have a bit tent without letting in people who used to be outside it, and that inevitably means some way of forgiving what they did before they joined.

    You just hit on a big reason for me. The big tent.

    In Virginia, it would seem Democrats are ascendant. The GOP has certainly gone crazy. (Corey Stewart!)

    You are going to have a lot of people, including males, who used to vote Republican but are ready to look at a pragmatic Democrat. And what do they see, when they see people losing their shit over photos from 30 years ago? Will they actually be welcomed into that party?

    I can see where a lot of people, especially African Americans, are disgusted at the photos and that they were blindsided with them. I think a lot of people are forgiving, if you give them the information and a sense of your heart and values. That did not happen in time here.

    And the media cannot find enough people of the resign! be gone! school to stick in front of microphones. Meanwhile, the less “rush to judgement” types are not heard from, at the outset. Because you have seen a lot over your life, and you want to see events play out a bit more.

    ReplyReply
  158. 158
    eemom says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I think I agree with you. But on a more cynical note, he may also/instead be counting on the whole thing going away in another news cycle or two, and it’s beginning to look like he might be right.

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  159. 159
    Brickley Paiste says:

    C’mon I want to see a show of hands – all ya’ll that called for Northam to resign – do you believe that the three top democrats in VA government should resign?

    ReplyReply
  160. 160
    DHD says:

    Out here in Not America, lots and lots of people out here are still unaware or in denial of the racist connotations of blackface (google “zwarte piet” and/or “louis morissette blackface” and/or lots of other stuff…) Given how awful you guys are at teaching your own history down there, I find it plausible that a fair number of white kids in the USA didn’t realize either at some point in the past…

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  161. 161
    different-church-lady says:

    @Brickley Paiste: We are not the droids you’re looking for.

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  162. 162
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Eugene Scott @ Eugene_Scott
    This Mark Herring quote is key:

    “I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”

    ebaisse @ jbouie
    b-boy bouiebaisse Retweeted Eugene Scott
    yeah. had Northam said something like this as soon as the picture hit and taken full responsibility without any reservations, he might be in a better position

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  163. 163

    While we are debating Northam’s sins from 35 years ago. This is what our military has been doing on the orders of the Orange One on the southern border.

    ReplyReply
  164. 164
    Kay says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    It’s being reported, without any hard sourcing that I’ve seen, that the Northam photo was pushed by a med school classmate who was incensed that Northam pointed out that sometimes birth is not a precious miracle but an agonizing medical situation that forces unimaginably painful choices on the parents of newborns

    One of the worst things about the anti-abortion Right is how they’ve turned pregnancy and child birth into a baby powder ad.

    The US has one of the worst maternal mortality rates among developed countries. I don’t care if they want to imagine it’s a Hallmark card, but I don’t have that luxury. They’re useless and people giving birth don’t have time for “useless”. Give me the clinical-sounding pro over the “but the BABBIIEEES” people any day of the fucking week.

    You just know Ben Sasse would be no fucking help at all in a pinch. Why does it have to be fantasyland? It can be an amazing thing on its own terms. They don’t have to make it a Lifetime movie.

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  165. 165
    WhatsMyNym says:

    OT – Bloomberg has a great article “Inside Wisconsin’s Disastrous $4.5 Billion Deal With Foxconn

    Shortly after Trump’s visit, things got worse. A Foxconn manager at the factory, which then had only about 60 people working there, abruptly called about 15 of them—all interns —into a room to say they should seek other jobs because there wasn’t enough work to hire them full time, according to multiple people present. Two sources recall the manager telling the group, cryptically, that there were forces outside the company’s control affecting the Wisconsin project. A number of the interns, who’d received praise from Trump and shaken Gou’s hand just weeks earlier, were stunned. “It was upsetting for people,” says James Pitman, one of the former interns. “They had hyped a lot of shit up. We were used as a publicity stunt.” Foxconn says that’s insulting and that the internships ended as scheduled.

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  166. 166

    @Kay: They are not pro babies, they are anti-women. They are not pro legal immigration. They are anti-immigrant. Legal immigration and babies are their fig leaves.

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  167. 167
    Elizabelle says:

    I want to also say: I do not think Tom Periello was electable statewide in 2017. Which is when Northam ran. He ended up winning by a big margin, but that was very late in coming. It was a tough, tough race.

    Virginia has a lot of voters who find a soft-spoken former military officer appealing, even if he is a Democrat. Tim Kaine and Levar Stoney (currently mayor of Richmond, I like him a lot) were encouraging Northam to run for a long while.

    I do not like the blackface photos — they stunned me — but I have some loyalty to someone who has lived a non-racist political life, has worked to improve the situation for all Virginians, including people of color. Gun control. Medicaid expansion. Women’s health. Coming out early on those overdone Confederate monuments (and I think Richmond’s should stay! — with a lot of context provided). Voting rights for felons.

    Loyalty and mercy and discernment are important qualities too.

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  168. 168
    Keith P. says:

    …you were a white college student in the 1980s who didn’t wear “black face.”

    I was a white college student in the 90s, and I can only say that I *probably* didn’t wear black face. And I went to elementary school in Alabama, so it’s possible I wore blackface on Halloween or something back then, too. Although back then I understood “blackface” to be closer to Frank Reynolds’ understanding of it where it was done with the lips left white. So I’m not as outraged as folks on TV are, particularly given that it was the mid 80s. Back then, black jokes were still commonly told (at least in my neck of the woods) It’s definitely cringe-worthy and embarrassing, but I’m surprised that it’s been consuming news coverage this long and heavily.

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  169. 169
    Ruckus says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    Those defensive white people know it’s wrong, they care enough to not be blatant about it, but not close enough to come to terms with the wrongness.

    ReplyReply
  170. 170
    Elizabelle says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Agreed. Northam has been slow on the uptake.

    As noted by the tweet upstream, Mark Herring was taking really good notes for his response.

    I don’t blame Dr. or Mrs. Northam for deciding to stick it out rather than resigning for being a racist. Which is a deadly sin in the Democratic party, and not the full picture on Northam.

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  171. 171
    Kay says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Shouldn’t the anti-abortion Right be discussing this?:

    More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die been rising.

    I see 20 years of screeching about “the babies!” is really adding a lot of practical value. Their fantasy of pregnancy and childbirth is not of this world.

    ReplyReply
  172. 172
    NotMax says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist

    Heartfelt contriteness and sincere remorse are powerful cleansers.

    ReplyReply
  173. 173
    NotMax says:

    In moderation for FYWP knows why. Please to liberate.

    ReplyReply
  174. 174
    Kent says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    @Kent: During the brouhaha about the MAGA kids from KY, someone unearthed recent photos from that school’s yearbook depicting white kids painted black at a sporting event, and the MAGA kids’ defenders responded that it was a “blackout” game. Lord. Seems unambiguously offensive to me for white people to paint their skin black in any context. It also seems like something so blindingly obvious that no one should have to be told that, no matter who they are or where they’re from. But I’ll stop extrapolating my experience onto the larger world now.

    You would think. Waco isn’t even deep south but the casual historical racism you would see every day was just endlessly pervasive. These photos and this whole blackface thing is just a very tiny tip of the iceberg of a whole culture of white privilege that still relentlessly exists.

    White kids doing blackface and black kids getting shot by cops is all part of a single thread.

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  175. 175
    Elizabelle says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    This Mark Herring quote is key:

    “I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.

    Wow. That is good. Taking responsibility for knowing the history at the time.

    ReplyReply
  176. 176
    Emma says:

    @Roger Moore: That’s kind of what I was positing. We have no guidelines for repentance–> forgiveness. Now, as far as I am concerned, Northam cooked his own goose. His explanation/mea culpa was so absolutely clueless that even my practical political sense was outraged. Herring is not only putting it out there but the circumstances were materially different and he is obviously aware of the imbecilic nature of his behavior. But my guess is that we will lose them both.

    ReplyReply
  177. 177
    Ruviana says:

    @NotMax: +1 for Facegram! LOL.

    ReplyReply
  178. 178
    sherparick says:

    @MisterForkbeard: I expect if you were going to fraternities and parties that where all the participants were white, and you were not particularly “woke,” you might not realize that it was wrong. I had forgotten (or least say it had not sparked a “WTF” at the time) but Dan Ackyrod did a “Blackface” with Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places” in 1983 and Johnny Carson did a skit on the Tonight Show in 1976 (and I don’t recall much controversy at time about either).

    Right now, I have come to the conclusion that we will just have to live with Northam’s and Herring’s apologies and the knowledge that they won’t run for statewide office in Virginia again. Regarding Justin Fairfax, whatever happen between him his accuser in Boston in 2004, in a he said ., she said, where the she coming forward simply has no reason not to be telling the truth as she remembers it, I believe he needs to resign (just as Justice Kavanaugh does). Forcible sodomy trumps simply acting as a white privileged idiot.

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  179. 179
    MJS says:

    @Kent: You nailed it for rural east coast state schools in the mid-80s. Ronald Reagan and conservatism were ascendant. I went to far too many college parties at that time, and while I don’t remember anyone showing up in blackface to any of them, if someone had no one would have batted an eye.

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  180. 180
    Elizabelle says:

    @sherparick: I am still good with Mark Herring running for office. He is a really good guy. A flawed one, but he has stuck his neck out for some very good causes.

    ReplyReply
  181. 181
    Mart says:

    I recall watching Al Jolson in blackface movies on TV in the 70’s, and then recall them being banned around that time. So I googled when were his movies banned and found a glowing Wikipedia page. Per Wiki he was a huge star thanks to being in some of the first talkies, and being an outstanding performer. He was ahead of the times treating Cab Calloway as an equal during filming on and off set, and promoting many other black acts. He was eulogized by many black performers at his funeral in 1950. He died from complications after entertaining troops in Korea.

    It was complicated, but I knew enough to know at my lightly integrated HS and northern state college that blackface was no longer acceptable. I do not recall ever seeing anyone in blackface, though for the “King of Halloween” costume a friend painted himself golden, and adorned himself with leaves. He won first place in the judging, and was awarded a bag of coke.

    As for watching straight men be horribly cruel at work right in the face of gay men, even a gay man dying of AIDs, I have endless stories from the 80’s and 90’s. Telling them they remember that neighborhood, they would go gay bashing there in HS; or when in hearing range loudly proclaiming the only good fag is a dead fag are examples.

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  182. 182
    Elizabelle says:

    @Emma:

    my guess is that we will lose them both.

    Oh gawd, I hope not. Be smart about this, Democrats.

    ReplyReply
  183. 183
    Kay says:

    That said, Democrats may have been caught off guard by what is a (sadly, true) political hit but they aren’t off guard now and here shortly we’ll be seeing the GOP blackface yearbook/fraternity photos. Because those exist.

    It always amazes me when hugely vulnerable people attack, but it seems like it’s a mindset on the Right- like it’s an actual way of thinking and they all endorse and admire it. Donald Trump is kind of the ultra example of this, but it’s been an attitude on the Right for a long time.

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  184. 184
    Elizabelle says:

    How good do 1960s James Bond movies look about now?

    I just saw some for the first time earlier this year. On a big screen. Date rape would be putting some of it mildly. Definitely coercion and a show of force.

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  185. 185

    Can we shitcan Mark Wahlberg too for the time he beat those Asian-Americans half to death while screaming racist slurs? Or threw rocks at black kids while screaming slurs? While we’re at it. Amazing how many people don’t know about that.

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  186. 186
    Edward Brennan says:

    @Yarrow:

    If there are things like blackface in your past maybe it shouldn’t take anyone’s research for you to come clean. I honestly know that I have crossed the street when I shouldn’t, that I have had the “well-spoken” thought in my head attached to race. I hate this within myself and I fight against it. But I have never engaged in blackface or stood before the stars and bars for a photo op. There are degrees..

    I can see how people make mistakes, but if you are running for office, how you deal with them is part of who you are today. If your response is just wait until enough time passes versus dealing with it, no good. At that point you are like the #metoo men who think that waiting it out somehow makes it ok. It doesn’t. Take responsibility, apologize, work towards a less racist world. All of it.

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  187. 187
    BobS says:

    @Emma: Northam should resign, but I think Herring will survive it. The jury is still out on Fairfax- if someone comes forth confirming that Vanessa Tyson reported the incident to them contemporaneously, he has to go as well. In fact, if her claim can be corroborated, Fairfax’ behavior is not just morally reprehensible, but criminal.

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  188. 188
    BobS says:

    @sherparick: Gene Wilder in Silver Streak.

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  189. 189
    Kay says:

    @Elizabelle:

    This is a bigger debate between liberals and conservatives, really, and it probably had to come to a head. They dismiss all this as “political correctness” and we profoundly disagree, and that apology to me gets to the heart of the difference.

    “I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”

    This is a real split. You’re on this side or you’re on the “political correctness” side. That probably had to be clarified.

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  190. 190
    NotMax says:

    @Elizabelle

    Are you suggesting there’s a tinge of sexism in them?

    :)

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  191. 191
    ruemara says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I do. I don’t fux with Wahlbigot.

    *looks at this in what did I tell you*
    A big issue is people are examining it based on their own peer groups. Yes, you didn’t, and your main group of friends didn’t. But there’s enough assholes out there that did, continue to do so & don’t stop until either black people are important to their lives OR they face consequences. And they are Democrats, liberals & progressives in many ways. Just not this one. They better get ahead of it, because this is designed to be used to depress the black voters. Not the mechanism to vote, but the will to align.

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  192. 192
    Emma says:

    @BobS: I hadn’t considered Fairfax at all for that reason. I know it was investigated by, I think, the WaPo and it didn’t go anywhere, but since it is actually a crime and not a moral failure, it should be handled as one.

    ReplyReply
  193. 193
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ella in New Mexico:

    At least Herring did what Northam should have done: copped to it, talked about how stupid and ignorant he was of how it hurt other people and how his outlook and behaviors, including his career, have been better.

    This. Herring made an ACTUAL apology, not a jokey “hey everybody did it and watch this moonwalk!” speech.

    We need to leave room as a society for people to say, I did racist shit that I’m not proud of, I’m sorry I did it, and I will never do it again.

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  194. 194
    Kay says:

    Is there any real reporting on tax refund checks being held up? All my clients believe the shutdown delayed their refund.

    I will be happy to tell them Donald Trump’s hissy fit held up their refund so just give me the word :)

    It may not matter. It must have been on Facebook or something, because they’re all saying it. Live by the sword, die by the sword, Donald.

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  195. 195
    PJ says:

    @Mart: Jolson was also one of Jackie Wilson’s idols and role models as a performer. The blackface thing is complicated for performers of that time because, while the whole tradition is one of denigrating blackness, people like Jolson (and Astaire and others) treated other black performers with respect and as equals.

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  196. 196

    @Brickley Paiste:

    1) I believe Northam should resign, and Fairfax promote up to Governor.
    2) I believe Fairfax should stay in office long enough to nominate his replacement (he CAN do that).
    3) When it becomes clear that the sexual assault allegation is legit, Fairfax can resign and his replacement can get promoted up to Governor.
    4) Get the Sec of State to resign in a way to make sure Fairfax can nominate his replacement before he resigns.

    If ALL THREE resign at the same time, THEN the Speaker of the state assembly gets promoted up. THAT should not happen.

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  197. 197
    Chet says:

    I didn’t do it, and I can’t remember anybody I know doing it. But I’m gonna be totally frank and say that, in college, I might not have thought it was an offensive thing. I might have thought it was merely transgressive, provocative, taboo-breaking. For instance, on multiple occasions around that age, I went in drag for Halloween (I was a pretty hot Monica Lewinsky one year). I think that college me might have thought blackface was about the same. The fact that I knew very few black people up to that point in my life would have played a role in that judgement.

    At my current age, I am mortified by college kids doing it.

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  198. 198
    Rommie says:

    And here I thought Adam’s cat picture was overstating things when he used it the first time. Well then.

    Oh yeah, I was a white college student in the 1980s in Michigan and I didn’t wear blackface at any time. I was such an outlier back in the day, sheesh.

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  199. 199
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Kay: Yep. I believe Trump is a dullard to the core, but even I have to admit weaponizing racial/gender grievances under the “political correctness” banner was a stroke of genius.

    ReplyReply
  200. 200
    VeniceRiley says:

    I’m just going to let Virginia Dems sort this all out.

    ReplyReply
  201. 201
    Elizabelle says:

    @PaulWartenberg: I don’t think Northam should resign.

    Screw you. Why even open that whole Pandora’s box. Which you can then watch from another state.

    Next.

    ReplyReply
  202. 202
    B.B.A. says:

    This is why I’ll never vote for another white man in a primary. And as soon as the Democratic Party can win general elections without a single white male vote, we should. Fuckemall.

    ReplyReply
  203. 203
    Dr. Ronnie James, D.O. says:

    So, in 1995-1996 I had a dorm Halloween party to go to and no costume. So I improvised a costume of a rapper, specifically Flava Flav: giant wall clock “necklace”, black Ray-Bans, and sportswear in the brightest, gaudiest most mismatched colors I could find: blue and orange Knicks jersey, teal baseball jacket, etc. Somehow, blackface didn’t make it on my pasty skin (though I surely could have scrounged some shoe polish to that end), and yet *everybody* knew who I was trying to be. Imagine that!

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  204. 204
    A Ghost To Most says:

    As I said earlier, while the star chambers were forming, it’s like discovering that gambling occurred at Rick’s.

    But surrendering to ratfucking is soo satisfying.

    ReplyReply
  205. 205
    JustRuss says:

    I went to college in Missouri in the 80s. MO can be pretty Confederate, but I can’t recall seeing anyone in blackface ever. A lot of people are absolutely clueless when it comes to history, I can believe there are folks who have no idea how offensive it is. I work at a large U in a blue state, and we had a huge brouhaha a few years ago when a bunch of students blacked out their faces for a football game.

    Hugh Laurie wore blackface as Bertie Wooster in the 90s. The series is set in the 1920s so I guess he kinds of gets a pass, but I wish they would have skipped that episode.

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  206. 206
    Elizabelle says:

    @VeniceRiley:

    I’m just going to let Virginia Dems sort this all out.

    Once they pick their jaws up off the floor. It is a work day, but I am not seeing the same flame-mongering from a few days back.

    ReplyReply
  207. 207
    NotMax says:

    @B.B.A.

    Would sir/madame care for some pretzels with that flagon of bile?

    ReplyReply
  208. 208
    Brickley Paiste says:

    @PaulWartenberg:

    That looks sound as a matter of tactics. (Does appointment require confirmation?)

    ReplyReply
  209. 209
    BobS says:

    @VeniceRiley: Correction. Black Virginia Democrats.

    ReplyReply
  210. 210
    Kent says:

    The 1980s was still very much pre-internet. So it is very much random chance what sorts of cultural artifacts survive that document someone’s youth. Although I know damn sure I never did anything as ridiculous as blackface. I do know there are probably some group photos of me posing nude somewhere out there in someone’s photo album. Even photography was pre-digital so unless it was in an archived document like a yearbook or newspaper article it is random chance that it survived.

    I pity the current crop of youth who live on digital media. They will never be able to escape their pasts if we keep playing this game. People are more conscious about the overt racism these days. But the 90s were replete with homophobia, especially in the conservative religious set. And more recently we have a lot of fear and loathing about trans kids and immigrants. And I expect there is likely stuff going on today that we don’t even know will be offensive 30 years from now.

    There is, however, a difference between being stupid and being criminal. We have to have some sort of hierarchy about this. Being an offensive jerk wasn’t illegal back then and isn’t illegal today. Rape and sexual assault have been crimes since the Bronze Age. Although it’s not my place to do so, I could come round to forgiving someone like Northam if he he convinced me. Kavanaugh on the other hand should have been locked up and disqualified from ever pursuing law.

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  211. 211

    @PaulWartenberg:

    When it becomes clear that the sexual assault allegation is legit

    When?

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  212. 212

    @JustRuss: I remember that. It was a total WTF moment. Didn’t Wodehouse make excuses for the Nazis too? Kipling was quite racist, as were many other British authors whose books we enjoy to this date.

    ReplyReply
  213. 213
    BobS says:

    @Major Major Major Major: If she told friends or family about it around the time it allegedly occurred.

    ReplyReply
  214. 214
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brickley Paiste:

    Look, just admit up-front that blackface photos of you exist and stop whining about how unfair it is that people judge you on them.

    ReplyReply
  215. 215
    Redshift says:

    @Searcher:

    Actually, you’re missing the part where Republicans get nothing.

    On my planet, Democrats losing the support of statewide elected officials in the 2019 elections and having incumbents who can’t run how higher office in the next Gov/Lt. Gov/AG election isn’t Republicans getting nothing.

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  216. 216
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @B.B.A.: Another candidate for the star chamber.

    ReplyReply
  217. 217

    Re: truth and reconciliation stuff, we will definitely need that attitude when it comes to LGBT issues. Particularly trans issues—I’m so old I remember getting shit here on BJ for insisting that Chelsea Manning should be called by her preferred name and pronouns.

    Dan Savage has written about the importance of forgiveness for for such things. We can’t criticize somebody for disagreeing with us and then criticize them again for agreeing with us “too late.” It disincentives change and honesty, and that’s very bad in the political arena.

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  218. 218
    The Moar You Know says:

    This is why I’ll never vote for another white man in a primary. And as soon as the Democratic Party can win general elections without a single white male vote, we should. Fuckemall.

    @B.B.A.:

    Oh look, another ratfucker. Here’s some facts: The white male vote for Obama in 2012 was 39%. Which I find appallingly low, but there it is. The Dem party will never win national elections without white men, just as it will never win without the participation of everyone. Hopefully with majorities, but at this point I’ll take anybody.

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  219. 219
    Jay Noble says:

    “Ya Got To Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific lays it out pretty plainly where the racism comes from. But also points the way to a cure. Unfoirtunately it takes time to educate people to a new acceptable and much of that education hasn’t taken place.

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  220. 220
    Avalune says:

    I pity the current crop of youth who live on digital media. They will never be able to escape their pasts if we keep playing this game. People are more conscious about the overt racism these days. But the 90s were replete with homophobia, especially in the conservative religious set. And more recently we have a lot of fear and loathing about trans kids and immigrants. And I expect there is likely stuff going on today that we don’t even know will be offensive 30 years from now.

    There is, however, a difference between being stupid and being criminal. We have to have some sort of hierarchy about this. Being an offensive jerk wasn’t illegal back then and isn’t illegal today. Rape and sexual assault have been crimes since the Bronze Age.

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject.

    That said, dude is in the doghouse for the I’m sorry, no wait it wasn’t me BS. Should have owned the crap out of it. Could have been forgiven perhaps, had he owned it. But he blew it.

    ReplyReply
  221. 221
    eemom says:

    @Kent:

    There is, however, a difference between being stupid and being criminal. We have to have some sort of hierarchy about this. Being an offensive jerk wasn’t illegal back then and isn’t illegal today. Rape and sexual assault have been crimes since the Bronze Age. Although it’s not my place to do so, I could come round to forgiving someone like Northam if he he convinced me. Kavanaugh on the other hand should have been locked up and disqualified from ever pursuing law.

    YES. It drives me crazy that people who ought to know better compare Northam to Kavfuck.

    ReplyReply
  222. 222
    BobS says:

    @eemom: Or Northam to (potentially) Fairfax.

    ReplyReply
  223. 223
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JustRuss:

    Hugh Laurie wore blackface as Bertie Wooster in the 90s. The series is set in the 1920s so I guess he kinds of gets a pass, but I wish they would have skipped that episode.

    To be fair, it was a disguise to allow Bertie to escape from his imprisonment on a rich American’s yacht until Bertie agreed to marry the rich American’s “compromised” daughter.

    I know it’s a fine line, but I do think there’s a difference between a disguise and a costume.

    ReplyReply
  224. 224
    JustRuss says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yes, it was a disguise, but bunch of Drones, of which he was a member, were doing a minstrel show. I don’t really blame Wodehouse, product of his times and all that, but the producers could have used some imagination, or just skipped that story.

    ReplyReply
  225. 225
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Didn’t Wodehouse make excuses for the Nazis too?

    Nope. In fact, he was interned by the Nazis when they invaded France because he and his wife were living in France at the time.

    The inadvisable thing Wodehouse did was agree to do a few radio broadcasts from Berlin with “funny” stories about being interned. He thought it was a way to reassure his friends and family that he was all right despite being interned, but a post-war mob led by AA Milne (yes, the Winnie the Pooh author) insisted that it made Wodehouse a collaborator.

    One of Wodehouse’s most famous comic characters is an Oswald Moseley-style aspiring fascist leader who has a secret life as a designer of ladies’ undergarments, so that pretty much shows his opinion.

    The blackface stuff is a subplot of his novel “Thank You, Jeeves” and though it’s distasteful, it’s clearly used in-story to punish the characters who agree to put it on. Both Bertie and another character allow other people to pressure them to put on blackface and then end up being put through a series of public humiliations for the rest of the book.

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  226. 226
    Redshift says:

    I can raise my hand in answer to the question at the top of the post. I grew up in Virginia and went to college in the early 80s, and I definitely never wore blackface. I will say that we Northern Virginians then were often shocked to find out how “Southern” the rest of the state was.

    A relevant incident comes to mind from when I was in high school. At the neighboring school where my girlfriend went, the drama teacher decided to do a production of “Finian’s Rainbow,” motivated in part by wanting to get more nonwhite kids to try out. (For those of you who are familiar with the show, yeah, I know.) When they didn’t, she had some of the white kids wear blackface. Really.

    Everyone knew it was awful (except, apparently, the drama teacher and anyone in a position to nix the idea), even if us privileged white kids didn’t know exactly why. So in my part of the state, at least, no one should claim that everyone thought it was okay back then.

    ReplyReply
  227. 227
    JustRuss says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Didn’t Wodehouse make excuses for the Nazis too?

    He was vacationing in France and was captured by the Germans. He was duped into doing some propaganda for them, but was more naive than pro-Nazi. I think the Spode character pretty much illustrates his feelings towards them.

    ReplyReply
  228. 228
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JustRuss:

    Ah, I was thinking of the book — I didn’t see that episode of the show. Ugh.

    I actually don’t recall seeing any references to the Drones doing minstrel shows, but commenter Shana is the real expert in Wodehousiana. The big featured sketch is a “Pat and Mike” cross-talk comedy duo of Irish stereotypes that shows up in several books and short stories.

    ReplyReply
  229. 229
    Redshift says:

    @Avalune:

    That said, dude is in the doghouse for the I’m sorry, no wait it wasn’t me BS. Should have owned the crap out of it. Could have been forgiven perhaps, had he owned it. But he blew it.

    Arguably the saddest part of this is that Northam is quite good at governing, but has never been very at the public persona part of being a politician (speaking, interacting with the public, having any presence at all.) His complete inability to deal with a PR crisis like this would not have been hard to foresee.

    ReplyReply
  230. 230
    Elizabelle says:

    @Redshift: I know.

    I do not want to see him forced out. I don’t think we have the luxury of sacrificial lambs.

    ReplyReply
  231. 231
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JustRuss:

    Also, in the book, there is a group of actual Black musicians on the yacht and Jeeves disguises Bertie as one of them to make his escape. No Drones involved.

    The reason they’re able to pull this off is that absolutely no one seems to think it strange that Jeeves would have a friend who is Black, which is somewhat interesting for 1924.

    So, yes, it sounds like the show managed to insert some racist content that wasn’t in the Wodehouse original. Woo. 😒

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  232. 232
    apocalipstick says:

    I have worn blackface, at least partially. I also had whiteface. I was dressed as a member of Kiss, okay? It was the 70s. Times were different. I wouldn’t do it now.

    ReplyReply
  233. 233
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    The inadvisable thing Wodehouse did was agree to do a few radio broadcasts from Berlin with “funny” stories about being interned. He thought it was a way to reassure his friends and family that he was all right despite being interned, but a post-war mob led by AA Milne (yes, the Winnie the Pooh author) insisted that it made Wodehouse a collaborator.

    It was more than that. Wodehouse tried to give off airs that he was an ethereal artiste, above human concerns, even above the mere physical aspects of human existence.

    But the British were not amused.

    He claimed after the war – which the US hadn’t entered when he spoke – that he was simply trying to let his fans know he that was alive and intact. It didn’t matter. In London, Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, denounced him as an agent of the German propaganda machine. In the newspapers and on the BBC, he became a hate figure comparable to Lord Haw-Haw.

    And it certainly was not the case that only a mob was after him.

    In terms of his reputation, Wodehouse still isn’t completely out of the woods. Most likely, he never will be. The MI5 papers reveal that after the war, a senior agent reviewed the files and recommended that if Wodehouse returned to Britain, he should be prosecuted. Not that he ever did. After the war, he settled in America, where until his death in 1975 he continued to feint and tease about what had really happened in Berlin. And when pushed to say unequivocally that he hated the Nazis, he drew elegantly on a cigarette and said: “I do not hate in the plural.”

    He seemed emotionally incapable of understanding what he had done.

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  234. 234
    Bill K says:

    I don’t see it in here yet, so I want to offer a defense of Soul Man. It was the opposite of what you describe – ” A right-wing attack on affirmative action”. The lead character was taking the right-wing position at the beginning of the movie. He thought affirmative action was a joke and he had no qualms about pretending to be black in order to get the scholarship. However, once at school he meets the person who was supposed to get the scholarship. She was having to work long hours to cover her tuition and she still got better grades than he did. As he learned more about her he realized his ideas about affirmative action were wrong and in the end he dropped the scholarship so she could have it. Not to put words in folks’ mouths, but I suspect the black actors in that movie were happy to be part of a movie that addressed racial issues in an honest way.

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  235. 235
    chromeagnomen says:

    @Ceci n est pas mon nym: add to this the fact that northam was almost certainly a republican at the time this blackface incident occurred.

    ReplyReply
  236. 236
    cliosfanboy says:

    @burnspbesq: did you follow the recent renaming kefluffle?

    ReplyReply
  237. 237
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Dude. Way to selectively excerpt:

    Wodehouse’s defenders have waited a long time for the partial exoneration that came with last week’s release of MI5 files detailing the agency’s post-war investigation into the author’s alleged treachery. While the papers suggest that Wodehouse could have been franker about his links to the Third Reich, the conclusion was that he had not consciously assisted the enemy, and that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution.

    The article makes a pretty decent case for why Wodehouse in particular had emotional issues that made it difficult for him to understand why people would be angry with him.

    Oh, and AA Milne was a bitter asshole who was pissed that Wodehouse was more successful than he was. Look it up.

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  238. 238
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Dude. Way to selectively excerpt

    Nope. I provided a link so that those interested could read the entire article. And the concluding paragraph clearly indicated that at least one government agency thought that the guy should have been prosecuted.
    :

    The article makes a pretty decent case for why Wodehouse in particular had emotional issues that made it difficult for him to understand why people would be angry with him.

    You could also read this as a man firmly determined to evade any responsibility for his actions. And he was cagey enough not to try to move back to England.

    Oh, and AA Milne was a bitter asshole who was pissed that Wodehouse was more successful than he was. Look it up.

    Not really relevant to anyone’s assessment of Wodehouse’s actions here.

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  239. 239
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    And the concluding paragraph clearly indicated that at least one government agency thought that the guy should have been prosecuted.

    Read your own excerpt again. “Senior agent” =/= “agency.” The agency was the one that declined to try and prosecute him.

    Wodehouse spent much of his life and career living in America and wrote for both Broadway and Hollywood in both the silent and sound eras. His deciding to live in the US after the war was not necessarily because he feared prosecution, though that certainly could have played a role in his decision.

    And it would be great to have a source for the “I do not hate in the plural” quote. No one seems to know where it was published, who the interviewer was, or the wording of the question.

    George Orwell had an interesting and contemporaneous defense:

    http://www.drones.com/Orwell.html

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  240. 240
    Dave W. says:

    The Orwell link should be in lower case: http://www.drones.com/orwell.html

    ReplyReply
  241. 241
    socraticsilence says:

    @Kent:

    It depends- Northam’s yearbook picture w/ a Klansman- yes. Herring’s admitted usage….eh- remember at the time it wasn’t exactly an uncommon trope in mainstream comedies– especially in 1980 (actually before the release of Trading Places, Fletch etc. not to mention the truly egregious “Soul Man”)

    ReplyReply
  242. 242
    dww44 says:

    @Dave W.: Thanks for that link. I found this line to be as true today as it was then

    In France, all kinds of petty rats — police officials, penny-a-lining journalists, women who have slept with German soldiers — are hunted down while almost without exception the big rats escape. In England the fiercest tirades against Quislings are uttered by Conservatives who were practising appeasement in 1938 and Communists who were advocating it in 1940

    Some things never do change and I’m so glad I came to the end of this apparently dead thread to find your link

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  243. 243
    smintheus says:

    I don’t believe for a second that these assholes didn’t know that blackface is racist as hell. That’s the only reason they do it, it’s the only “humor” to be found in blackface: doing something everyone agrees is racist. I was studying at and then working at a study abroad program in the early ’80s over several years. The students came from all over the country, nearly all of them white, and a fair number of them were on the jerk -> asshole spectrum. Several of them struck me as likely racists. But I never sensed that a single one would have dared to do blackface or anything similar, at least not while they were at our school. They knew they would have gotten their asses sent home if they had. It’s when they’re in an environment where there are unlikely to be any consequences that the extreme displays of racism come on out.

    ReplyReply

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