Published 8:59 am Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Let me start by saying I’m totally dismayed by the events of the past week. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has been implemented in scandal. Attorney General Mark Herring has come forward to admit that he donned blackface for a function when he was younger. Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has been implicated in sex scandals brought about by recent allegations involving two women. The scandal involving Gov. Northam however has garnered the most press. Photos appearing to show Northam in blackface and donning a Ku Klux Klan robe have surfaced from his 1984 Eastern Medical School yearbook. Northam first shamefully admitted it was indeed him in the photos only to backtrack his statements later by saying as pop music artist Shaggy so famously quoted, “It wasn’t me!” As a supporter of Northam in his successful bid to become Governor I am taken aback by this slap in the face. I literally don’t know what to believe. Having been involved in the political arena here in Central Virginia for over 30 years I have encountered countless politicians. Their views on the issues of the day often led them to be somewhat transparent in displaying their true feelings. On many occasions the words and actions by some of the people present at the time made me really wonder about their true character. I often questioned myself as to whether or not I could campaign in good faith for these people. Thankfully, there have been other politicians that I have worked with that were true to form from the first day we met. I often harken back to my work on the campaigns of now Congressman Don Beyer. Congressman Beyer has always been a true friend to me. Imagine that -a wealthy caucasian businessman from Northern Virginia needing my help in his bids to be elected twice as Lt. Governor and also later in an unsuccessful bid to be elected Governor. Beyer was later appointed Ambassador to Switzerland and invited me many times to visit him while he was serving there. Beyer has always been a man of character and a man with a strict moral compass that in all the time I have spent with him has never deviated off course politically or morally. With Beyer I have always known where I stood — right beside him. Respectful in his commitment to public service and knowledgeable of his constituents, he has been a beacon to those seeking a leader in what has become a political quagmire on nearly every level of government.
Growing up in Prince Edward County I was a child when the county chose to close its schools rather than integrate. I along with many other African-Americans at that time saw our educations disrupted and our families doled out to family and friends in other counties or states with hopes of attending schools there. The signs of segregation along with the racist rhetoric of the people running our nation, our state and our localities made you wonder if better days would ever come. Through hard work and a steadfastness to gain our rightful place in the landscape of America, African-American prevailed. A new wave of change swept the land. This change brought about new opportunities and new ways of thinking. Many of the people who I had witnessed working so fervently to keep me down were in positions to help lift me up. As true with anything, some did and some didn’t. I know things change and people change. Thoughts and feelings change over time as we mature mentally. I know many attitudes and some positions I once held on different issues have come full circle in my many years here on Earth.
Needless to say that although people’s minds change the attitudes of those affected can change also. Northam has found himself in a situation where those who were so eager to work with him now have to distance themselves due to the backlash from his colleagues. Many political allies have publicly stated that they do not feel they can effectively continue to work with the Governor elect. Others call for his ouster and demand that he step down immediately. Personally, I feel that he has lost support from within and can no longer be effective in his position as Governor. An old saying refers to things you regret often coming back to bite you where it hurts. We all have things in our past that we hope never become common knowledge to our parents, family members, friends, co-workers and above all, our enemies. I’m sure Ralph Northam is wishing he had never posed for those photos. If it’s not him in the shots I’m sure he wishes he had not included them with his photos.
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As for Lt. Governor Fairfax I am sure that his inner circle is giving all types of advice. I truly hope that someone is advising him that it may be time for a voluntary polygraph test. The results, although inadmissible in court, would definitely go a long way in the court of public opinion in clearing his name if indeed the allegations against him are false.
The mere fact that photos exist in old medical school and military college yearbooks along with other equally racist photos raises in me a larger question- What’s going on at Virginia Military Institute and Eastern Virginia Medical School in regards to the severe racist overtones of these type photos and why did they condone such clearly racist behavior? Several colleges and universities have seen other racist and unflattering photos from yearbooks and publications come to light recently. Colleges exist to develop young minds for a better future. They are not there to blatantly promote old ideas, images and stereotypes from the past – Right?
Carl U. Eggleston is the owner of Carl U. Eggleston Funeral Establishment and is a former member of Farmville Town Council. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.