People Should Have Room to Grow
No justifiable excuse exists to explain away Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s past racist behavior and insensitive comments about slavery.
White people will never be able to wear blackface without being justifiably branded a racist.
And no sane African-American will ever allow someone to label slavery as indentured servitude.
But if a lifetime of perfection is required to hold public office, keep a job or to be viewed as a decent human being, then no one deserves a job or any blessing in life.
And sooner or later, those bigoted comments that everyone makes behind close doors, including African-Americans, will soon ruin everyone’s lives.
Let’s see how vocal people are when some of their skeletons come out of the closet.
Gov. Northam recently found himself in hot water after pictures from his medical school yearbook became public.
On Northam’s page, there is a picture of two grown men, one wearing blackface and the other wearing a Ku Klux Klan clown costume.
Northam has waffled back and forth on whether or not he is one of the gentlemen pictured in the controversial image.
Because of the racist history of blackface in minstrel shows and the like, racism is the only justification for a White person to wear blackface.
Furthermore, why would someone post a picture of someone else on Northam’s yearbook page?
Northam himself had to submit that picture for it to be included in the yearbook unless he had an enemy he did not know about who knew that one day Northam would run for political office.
Despite the picture being inexcusable, kicking someone out of office because of how they felt in the past about different demographic groups is a slippery slope.
The slope is so slippery that I do not know of anyone, including yours truly, who could keep their balance on the slick road to maturity and enlightenment.
While in Irving, Texas last week on business, the Northam story became water cooler conversation for many of my colleagues.
I met a White gentleman in his late 40s from Denver who had an interesting story pertaining to race, racism, and race relations.
The young man grew up in a small Colorado town and he did not have his first encounter with an African-American until after he graduated from high school and joined the military.
He did not have one interaction, or did not come in contact with one African-American throughout his entire childhood.
Although he did not go into detail about his views on race as a child, it would not be unrealistic to think that his views on the African-American community centered on the many stereotypes used to describe African-Americans.
He admittedly told me that he did not believe racism was as big a deal as what he saw in the news media or movies and music growing up.
However, on a visit to Atmore, Ala. with some of his buddies from the military in the early 1990s, he experienced segregation as if he had stepped into a time machine that took him back to the Jim Crow days.
In the small Alabama town in the 1990s, the Colorado native saw separate facilities for Whites and separate facilities for African-Americans.
I chimed in that many high schools down south still have separate senior proms for White and African-American students.
That experience immediately changed how he viewed race, racism and race relations forever.
He began to understand why people got so up in arms about allegations of racism and he has since become a very open-minded man raising two teenage sons possibly differently than he was raised as it pertains to race.
This person did a complete 180-degree turn from the way he looked at life as a young man to the way he looks at life in his late 40s.
That type of growth and honesty earned my full respect and hopefully he continues sharing his transformation with people who grew up in non-diverse towns and schools as well.
But just imagine if this young man did not have the time to grow and become a different person.
Furthermore, my one experience in Atmore, Ala. was welcoming despite my skin color.
Maybe the town of Atmore has grown a little since the early 1990s like my colleague.
I constantly tell my peers, friends and classmates, that I am not even the same person I was five, 10 or 20 years ago so judging me based on where I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually epitomizes their own ignorance.
If I think other people are ignorant for judging me based on thoughts and behavior from 20 years ago, I would be just as ignorant to do the same thing to someone else.
Additionally, for someone to force the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax, to resign or face articles of impeachment based on the unproven sexual assault allegations of two women is ignorant too.
While many men, including myself, wholeheartedly support the #MeToo movement, an allegation by a woman should not be enough to convict someone of a crime in the court of public opinion or on the job.
That is another slippery slope that people should avoid because what is to stop someone from just using that #MeToo card in a vindictive way to get back at a boss for not getting a promotion, etc.?
But due process from sexual assault allegations does not give men the license to harass women and vice versa.
The #MeToo movement has put all men on notice on how to respect women, especially in the workplace.
No man or woman can claim ignorance as an excuse for the barbaric behavior anymore.
Likewise, with all of the recent conversations about blackface and slavery, no White person can use ignorance or a lack of diversity in their community as an excuse for racist behavior.
The news media has put everyone on notice that certain behavior will not be tolerated anymore.
Therefore, everyone should begin his or her growth process immediately.
Time to grow and mature might save Northam because he came of age in a different generation.
But that same grace period might not exist for those coming of age now because everyone should know better by now.