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The Right to be Offended?

I fully expect I’m going to get a bunch of pushback on this one. I welcome discussion about this.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is being pressured into resigning because of a photo from his 1984 yearbook, showing two people, one in blackface and one wearing a KKK costume, both holding beers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he didn’t make a mistake. But people make stupid mistakes all the time. You make amends, apologize, and move on.

I don’t know if that photo was taken at a Hallowe’en party, but it is actually somewhat funny having a black person and a KKK person drinking a beer together. I haven’t seen any evidence that it was intended to be racist.

Wearing blackface was not always considered racist. Al Jolson, probably the most famous person to wear blackface, worked hard his whole life to improve race relations and was considered a hero by most blacks.

Again, I’m not defending what he did. I just don’t see it as anything more than a small stupid mistake made a long time ago. And it is one more example of the left exercising the dubious right to be offended.

Of course, the GOP doesn’t know when to shut up and let the Dems sling mud at each other. Indeed, on Twitter Saturday an outraged Donald Trump Jr. claimed that the Republicans would never be able to get away with a racist scandal like this. In response, Twitter gleefully reminded him of all the racist scandals they have been able to get away with:

Twitter followers reminded him that his dad called black nations “shithole countries,” hailed Charlottesville protesters, including neo Nazis, as “very fine people,” and long pushed the “birther” lie that the nation’s only black president was born in Africa. Meanwhile, white nationalist GOP Iowa Rep. Steve King is serving his 16th year in Congress. (One Twitter response included a photo of President Donald Trump’s oldest son happily posing with King.)

Clay Jones
© Clay Jones



  1. Sam Foster wrote:

    It’s not just what he did. It’s his response. Denying it. The horrible press conference. The tone deafness towards supporter.

    If he had said: “Yep, that was me, but, I’ve learned from it” this would’ve blown over.

    And the fact this wasn’t trotted out during the campaign shows how racist VA still is. He’s only in trouble because it went national.

    Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Hassan wrote:

    “Again, I’m not defending what he did. I just don’t see it as anything more than a small stupid mistake a long time ago. And it is one more example on the left of exercising the dubious right to be offended.”

    I am very pleasantly surprised by your take. And I agree with you. Racism has many levels, and it seems the worst level and least level of form of racism also evolve with time, place, and culture (context in other words).

    So the worst racism (that can be practiced and imaginable) now-a-days may fall just in middle somewhere 30-40 years ago. And what the guy did at that point maybe just insensitive at best, but not active racism. (I do not know the person, but just saying he may be very active against segregation and for black rights, yet did this act)

    Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Hassan wrote:

    Also reminds me of what radical left did with Kevin Hart for oscars.

    Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Also read about how racist the movie “Mary Poppins” actually is (if you dare).

    Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  5. Trip wrote:

    So, I’m a Virginian who voted for Tom Perriello in the primary and then for Northam for governor. I remember telling people how pleased I was to have two excellent candidates to choose from, and would be very happy with either one. (I preferred Tom Perriello because he had been my Congressman for two wonderful years.)

    The biggest problem here, for me, is his ridiculous handling of the situation, which gives the appearance of a cover-up. On Friday, he apologized for appearing in the photo. On Saturday, he swore he wasn’t in the photo, but had actually done something else in Black Face for a contest or something. So whether he was in the photo or not, one of the two times, he lied to his constituents outright. Both cannot be true. He cannot be both in the photo and not in the photo at the same time. I’ve also not heard a good explanation for the nickname “Coonman” which has come up in all of this as well.

    If he had come out with a clear statement, explaining everything, it may well have blown over for him personally. It would have damaged the Virginia Democratic party’s chances of taking the state house in November, but he may well have limped through his remaining years before fading into obscurity. But his handling of the situation makes him look like a liar; his political career has never indicated he is a racist today, whether he was or not in 1984, and while redemption should be a thing that people receive and have received, I’m not sure he’s earned it here with his handling of the situation. Even people like me who would have been willing to hear him out are turned off by his contradictory statements.

    Ultimately, I expect to be talking about Governor Fairfax sooner rather than later. I won’t be unhappy about that either.

    Monday, February 4, 2019 at 5:48 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Trip, I actually agree with you that replacing Northam with Fairfax would be politically beneficial to the Democrats. On the other hand, I don’t like this kind of political assassination.

    I’m also concerned about the news that the website that broke this story by publishing the yearbook photo is a “pro-Trump outfit back by Republican operatives”. See

    This maneuver was also used against Al Franken, and I’m tired of the Dems spinelessly dumping anyone who comes under attack from the right. Not just Northam and Franken, but the same trick was previous used to damage Clinton and Pelosi, and is already starting to be used against good people like Elizabeth Warren.

    Monday, February 4, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  7. Wildwood wrote:

    I thought his original apology was okay and if he had just stopped there, I think he could have weathered the storm. He obviously did something, at some time that was less than correct. I have not paid a lot of attention so I’m not aware of “Coonman” moniker. I thought Franken got a raw deal, but he also could have tried harder to fight.

    We need to stop cannibalizing our own and decide to not jump on the bandwagon until all the facts are in. I once dressed as a gypsy for Halloween, (when I was 14 in 1957). Recently I read that the word “gypsy” should not be used. Does this mean I can’t run for office, ever?

    There are things that should be questioned, but something that happened in a different time, with different standards, but has not been repeated, should be looked at with a less virulent eye.

    Monday, February 4, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  8. ebdoug wrote:

    I’d love to Al Franken back in an instant. Another reason against Gillibrand.
    This afternoon I read about 39 year old Fairfax. He is incredible and has a great future.
    I am now reading articles that the black voters in Virginia are offended by Northam. That is important. if they were supporting him, I’d say let it ride. Northam has nothing to lose from resigning. He is apparently a very well liked Doctor.
    Again I go back to “The End of an Era” by John Wise, my great Grandfather. His mother from Philadelphia died when John was four. The Mammy just moved in and was his mother. The slave children were his friends. His mother had taught him that “all men are created equal” The 2014 movie on John Wise was panned due to the incredibility of John’s attitude at VMI, but that was John. the book starts with John having dinner in NYC after the war with Sherman. At the end of the book, John who promoted education of the freed slaves through the Port Royal Experiment, said at the end of the book “i just don’t feel that blacks and whites should marry, but that is just my opinion.” He would never have disparaged his friends with the black face. And then his son my grandfather wouldn’t even let black people work for him. Both Northam and my Wise relatives are from Onancock. Northam being the second governor after my great great Grandfather from the Eastern shore. All very familiar area to me as the land was deeded to the family in the 1600s.
    Also the education on the Eastern shore was atrocious when I knew of it. And yet Northam made it to VMI (where John and his descendants went., my father etc.) But Northam made it through in a public school that was primarily African American. that says a lot. Those were his friends growing up.
    I’d have never made it as a lawyer as I can always see both sides.

    Monday, February 4, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  9. notycoon22 wrote:

    The End of an Era is available on-line at:

    Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  10. ebdoug wrote:

    If you read it there, you will see that toward the end, the student scanning it in got tired and stopped making corrections. I read it there first, then of course, got copies for my grandchildren.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  11. Trip wrote:

    Iron Knee,

    I don’t disagree with you, but I believe Northam has reached the point of needing to go. Even with yesterday’s revelations about Herring, I do not believe he should. In fact, I found the bulleted list at the bottom of the article about the situation on Blue Virginia to reflect my exact opinion:

    Northam’s handled this horridly, while Herring has done what I would expect someone who clearly understands the mistake, why it was a mistake, and wants to do right. I do not want to see Herring leave, but I do want to see Northam leave.

    My opinion on Franken is very mixed, and I’m constantly concerned that I’m not able to remove my own bias in his favor from my opinion. At some point, the number of accusations grew to the point where you have to wonder about it. Definitely, the picture controversy was dumb and should not have even been given the time of day, but then the other accusations that followed… I still wish he was in the Senate, and I’m still not happy with Kirsten Gillibrand about her role in it, but I’m not sure that he would be effective were he still in the Senate today. I ultimately think he made the right decision in the end, but I wish it had been his decision rather than him being pushed out.

    Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink

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