FINE, let’s talk about that idiot Ralph Northam and how this whole flaming fustercluck could have been avoided had he been like, “Look, once upon a time I was an asshole, here is a picture of it, and here is how I have worked to remediate that and how you should do so as well.” Instead of waiting for someone to get mad enough to find it and do what was done with it. God.
(The fuckin’ moonwalk thing. Can someone please tell all white men everywhere during this Black History Month that there’s no particular virtue in saying every single thought that is in your head? I mean, Michael Jackson? STOPPIT.)
What I’d mainly like to talk about, besides the unending self-own that is Northam’s entire existence at this point, is the idea that “everybody” just did this in “the South” once upon a time. Everybody meaning white everybody, and the South being everything below the Canadian border apparently. Because it’s horseshit and we hear it all the time.
Yes, there was a time when fewer white people side-eyed you for putting on blackface and saying the n-word or having waiters cosplay as enslaved people or whatever. That doesn’t mean that time was okay. In fact, it pretty explicitly means that that time was garbage, and you’re not supposed to be proud of what you did back then.
“Literally everyone around me was also in blackface pretending to be in the Klan” is not an exoneration of you, in other words, it’s an indictment of everyone else along with you. The only way you think that shit’s exculpatory is if you exclude “everyone who isn’t white” from your definition of the people around you.
As Robyn so wisely points out:
When you excuse behavior that hurts people or hurts someone by saying it was “socially acceptable” then, you’re missing the point. The problem isn’t “violating social norms,” it is doing something hurtful.
— Robyn Pennacchia (@RobynElyse) February 4, 2019
It also obscures the fact that polite “white” society wasn’t as unified as we like to think around the concept of racism as an unequivocal YAY. If there’s one thing I’d like my fellow honkies to put to bed it’s this idea that there was a time when all white people considered racism to be okay and awesome, and then along came Martin Luther King and something something something, and the Civil Rights Act ended racism forever.
And everyone instantly knew that racism was no longer wrong, and this entire process took five minutes!
Because that means racism would be solved now completely (erm, no) and also that there were no abolitionists in the first place nor activists nor just people who recognized racism for what it was before the tide of public opinion in polite circles turned.
It erases the Freedom Riders, and people who worked for human rights before 1968 (hell, before 1900), and people who were just generally decent and didn’t have it in them to mock and degrade other human beings.
It makes overcoming racism something you can only do when it’s polite to do so, rather than when it’s hard, and it seems like everyone else in the very white room you’re in is looking the other way.