Having the freedom to lobby and advocate for my people’s rights became my main work for a few weeks, and a huge privilege. We clocked in a lot of hours on the ground, on the phone and online working on popular education as well as legislator education. I was surprised to see that some legislators were willing to have talks on immigration issues. I was even more surprised that a lot of them were very ignorant about these issues that affect so many of the people that they represent and very soon we learned that the issues of racism, sexism and ignorance went way deeper and more democratic than we thought.
The news broke out in a small, online right-wing leaning publication. It almost read like fake news: Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia, once a Republican but now a Democrat, in a yearbook photo of himself and another person. One wearing blackface. The other in a Klan costume. Calls for the governor’s resignation were swift and from all fronts during the first weekend of Black History Month. People protested on the streets, at the governor’s mansion gates and at the state capitol. Legislators from in and outside of the state condemned Ralph’s actions and his original admission (which he back-peddled or really, tried to moonwalk out of) of guilt and half-assed apology. Even trump called for Ralph to resign via an illegible tweet.
The entire state of Virginia, indeed all of the country agreed on one thing: the governor should step down from office.
Right on the heels of this debacle news broke of sexual harassment and rape allegations (I believe you!) by the Lt. Governor and days later, the Attorney General (the person next in line for succession should both these men accepted accountability for their actions and stepped down from office) admitted and publicly apologized for his own blackface involvement.
White supremacy in Virginia’s General Assembly was on national news, front and center but the conversation did little to help stop both the Anti-Sanctuary City Bill, as well as the ICE Collaboration Bill, from being passed through House and Senate with no trouble or to help good comprehensive bills that would have help folks, like the continuous fight for a living wage, ERA, driver’s license privilege cards bills and others be passed.
The conversation by the media was not centered nor reflected the wishes of most Virginians I know, myself included. The general discourse quickly moved to Ralph trying to prove he isn’t racist by doing all the things racists do to prove that they aren’t like that, and Fairfax denying accusations and threatening to sue the survivors that have come forward. Calls for accountability were met with silence by both men. Protests were met with police presence.
Days after arresting activists and locking up the Capitol grounds to keep people from occupying the space and continue protesting, police officers that work for the Capitol Police were found to have ties to white supremacist groups online.
Had anything really changed?