I’ve been feeling reflective for a little while now, philosophical, like pondering the meaning of life and shit. It’s been hard for me to focus on big picture stuff though, because I keep getting distracted by a more urgent, pressing question: “Why are people so dumb?” This mystery of the universe applies to both the human species as a whole, and to certain notable individuals whose behavior I propose we consider today. And I’m not even talking about last week’s State of the Union address, which I’ve posted here for your convenience.
So there’s a guy named Ralph Northam, and he is the governor of Virginia. Last week, Governor Northam was revealed to have dressed in either blackface or a KKK outfit at a party, he claims not to remember which. I’m going to dive into the details here, in an attempt to determine how the governor of a state could be such a racist prick, and so oblivious to why it upsets people. I expect this pondering to be inconclusive – hey, that’s philosophy for you.
Here’s a possibility: maybe he was still really young. Oh, he was 25 and graduating from medical school? OK, forget that, how about the old “it was a different time” hypothesis – ah, it was 1984? You know what, no, it wasn’t a different time. Citation: actual living memory. This type of racism was well-known to be exactly that. So what gives? Even beyond the fact that it’s just wrong to do this, why would a professionally, politically ambitious adult person think they could and never have it blow up in their face?
You know what? Let’s put aside the abstract arguments for a moment and just get rid of this guy. Northam can resign and we’ll make the second in command the governor. That would be, let’s see, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. Let’s do a quick doublecheck of Fairfax’s history, make sure there aren’t any skeletons in his JESUS CHRIST
Statement of Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who has accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault in 2004:
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.” pic.twitter.com/UI9Gz11DWj
— Sarah McCammon (@sarahmccammon) February 6, 2019
OK, Fairfax, you can fuck the fuck off. So who’s number three in all this? Mark Herring, Attorney General. Reading through the files, so far, so good. Looks like he’s already declared his candidacy for governor in 2021, too. Hey Mark, uh, silly question, but you wouldn’t happen to have, uh… well, nevermind, there’s no way he could have done the same thing.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? WHO DOES I’m sorry, I got a little carried away there, and temporarily lost the spirit of philosophical inquiry that best suites today’s topic of stupidity. So we have two senior government officials in Virginia, both with a similar, weirdly specific history of performative racism. Ahhhhh, performative, maybe that’s an avenue worth exploring, maybe we’re getting somewhere now. Maybe they didn’t see an open expression of racism as a liability, but rather as a benefit. As a statement of racial solidarity with the most powerful people of their world.
Geez, though, we haven’t even sorted out this mess with the Virginia governorship. Anyone else want to get in on this?
WHAT THE FUCK I WAS BEING SARCASTIC I CAN’T EVEN wait. This wasn’t a coincidence or a one-off performance, was it? This kind of public proclamation of white supremacy was regular occurrence among the future leadership of Virginia. Maybe when Northam said he didn’t remember which of the two racists he is in the photo, he was telling the truth. This happened so often with him and his entire social sphere, he just can’t remember. For him, it was just another Tuesday.
And if you want the support of the white ruling class of Virginia’s – and America’s – 400-year-old racial caste system, you have to signal to your peers and your elders that you will uphold their institutional status. Apparently, wearing racist costumes and bragging about it in print were among the many safe formats to get that message across. If anyone asked Ralph and company, they were only joking around, but even if that questionable claim is granted the message is the same: black Americans will not get any consideration, or be viewed as equals, or be shown even basic decency by the white ruling class. That is why this is a crisis of government, and not a minor scandal of a few individuals. It’s because the message that Northam and so many of his peers across the nation have spent recent years proclaiming – that they will do right by citizens of all races – is incompatible with the message that first got their foot in the door: This country belongs to us alone.
Please don’t threaten Mayor McSquirrel or, come to think of it, anyone else. Comment away!