Local Commentary

Editorial: The Sins of Virginia

‘Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.’

How little else than this Biblical injunction are Virginia Democrats left with after the incredible developments of these recent days. First Governor Ralph Northam, then Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, then Attorney General Mark Herring, like melting dominos, scorched under the unyielding scrutiny of angry accusers from their pasts. Others, if by association only, also lanced by opportunistic cheap shots to be piled onto a closing heap from Hamlet, or for more contemporary tastes, the infamous Red Wedding of “Game of Thrones” fame. Alas, more a day of reckoning for our sins than one of redemption from them.

Yes, a day of reckoning for the collective sins of Virginia, perhaps. The racism, sexism and misogyny practiced in this state for hundreds of years has only begun to be purged from her institutions, from her culture, from her populace. The Confederacy was an incredibly evil culture rooted in a vile, murderous hatred and that unhappy fact has only barely been addressed.

But consider what has brought us to this extraordinary moment in time. It was not the evil, but the growing resistance to it that has caused this. It is people not willing to accommodate it any longer, fighting back against it with increasing passion, standing up to racism in new and powerful ways, fighting to reclaim a new sense of dignity by ripping the names of Confederate generals off our high schools, demanding forgiveness for the repentant for the sins of slavery, murder, lynchings, beatings, brutal denials of human rights even to marriage and happiness, saying no more to any more of that. All along, there have been those who have resisted such change, who have fought to maintain the old culture even to this day, deadly racist rallies in Charlottesville and countless insidious ways.

Then there have been those who have aligned and fought, for better or worse, with those seeking the change, those who have internalized the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other great leaders who temper words of defiance and liberation with ones appealing to a higher humanity. How ironic that for all of the ugliness of the pasts from which they may have come, our leaders of Virginia today who are being so harshly judged now all chose in their adult lives to walk the paths of equality, justice and healing.

Dr. Cornel West of Harvard University, a strident civil rights activist, noted this week that Governor Northam’s life path reminded him of the one taken by President Lyndon B. Johnson, raised a racist but whose contributions to racial equality have been matched by few. Northam’s legacy should be honored and allowed to grow further whether from the governor’s office or not.

Let his critics match his path, and his accomplishments, and those of the others, and cast the first stone if they be more righteous.