Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam seems to think he can placate the state’s African-American residents by pushing pro-Black policies instead of following through on his so-called racial reconciliation tour to apologize for wearing blackface.
Northam’s latest attempt to curry favor with Black constituents involved a proposed budget tool to help minority- and woman-owned businesses compete for government procurement contracts, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Wednesday.
“These actions put a little meat on the bones and a little skin in the game, and help us move toward a solution,” said Virginia Legislative Black Caucus chairman Del. Lamont Bagby about the policy proposal that the caucus has wanted for a long time.
This comes on the heels of Northam giving his approval on March 22 for the creation of an African-American advisory board. Bagby introduced the bill in January to create the body that will focus on issues impacting Black residents.
Meanwhile, the governor’s so-called reconciliation tour appears to be on the back burner.
On Feb. 1, 59-year-old Northam apologized for appearing in a photograph of a person dressed in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe from his 1984 medical school yearbook. One day later, at a bizarre press conference, the governor denied that he was one of those people in the picture but admitted to applying black shoe polish to his face for a Michael Jackson dance competition.
Nearly two months since the scandal started, information about Northam’s blackface apology tour plans has been scarce. His office has released few details about his plans, beyond news releases on bills the governor signed to address issues that disproportionately affect Black Virginians, such as evictions and maternal mortality.
Northam’s bag of policy gifts to Black residents have included ending the state practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who have not paid their court fines and fees, a practice that disproportionately affects African-Americans. It doesn’t stop there. He’s also promoting affordable housing and ensuring that under-represented communities are counted in the 2020 U.S. census.
If the full truth is told, there has been little pressure to hold Northam’s feet to the flame. There was widespread demand for him to resign, but now that storm seems to have passed, with Democrats backpedaling on their initial outrage.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who was one of Northam’s early critics, is among those who have had a change of heart and wants to give the governor a second chance. At the same time, Black Virginians still support him.