Rehabilitation and Redemption Part 2: Virginia Politicians, Megyn Kelly, and Blackface

Blackface Megyn Kelly Northam Herring Virginia

Virginia is undergoing a massive unearthing of scandals with their major politicians. Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring all find themselves defending themselves and calls for their resignation. A 1968 yearbook of Virginia’s Military Institute, which Norment was the managing editor of, contained racial slurs, blackface, and Confederate flags. In another yearbook, this time a medical school yearbook of Ralph Northam, he was accused of appearing in blackface or in KKK garb. Herring, amidst everyone else’s blackface revelations, disclosed that he also had worn blackface in decades earlier. As is the case with Kareem Hunt, these actions are inexcusable. However, shouldn’t there be a path to redemption for people who run afoul of social standards?

It’s 2019 and most of us can agree that blackface is completely in the wrong. Granted there are still some that are inexplicably confused by it and thus turned it into a “complicated” subject. For example, this last October NBC canceled Megyn Kelly Today because of her remarks about blackface.

Megyn Kelly Spoke Her Truth

Kelly stated, ”Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”

“There was a controversy on The Real Housewives of New York with Luann, and she dressed as Diana Ross, and she made her skin look darker than it really is and people said that that was racist,”Kelly said. “And I don’t know, I felt like who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how, like, that got racist on Halloween.”

“The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?”

Kelly was completely wrong in her idea that blackface can be used to honor someone. It might seem like a great idea and you might truly adore the person you are dressing up as, but you are ignoring the brutal past of blackface. Blackface has a harsh history of white actors portraying racist caricatures of black culture. They insulted, belittled and disparaged black culture while at the same time perpetuating stereotypes. If there wasn’t a history of blackface used in this way, perhaps Kelly would be right. However, because of its past, we can’t accept that. This is something most of us know now. We understand the apauling history and why it is completely unacceptable in today’s culture. But Megyn Kelly wasn’t completely wrong in her understanding of blackface.

The Past vs The Present

She was right about America’s past. Things were different. Despite it being disgusting, it was socially acceptable to dress in blackface. Blackface, sexual harassment and many other offenses didn’t disturb people’s moral fabric or have the consequences that they do today. Society wasn’t as educated, aware, and didn’t care about the victims and the reasons why each were misdeeds. Barry Bonds played baseball in the steroid-era of baseball, yet he’s still not in the Hall of Fame because of this. Whether it is a politician, athlete, or even an inmate, we have to consider the environments that people grew up or operate in.

With that being said, let’s review our Virginia politicians, where they went right, where they went wrong, and how politicians and citizens should move forward with redemption at the forefront of their focus.

If you recall, there are three Virginia politicians that have been linked to blackface and they each came out in different ways. Norment, after his 1968 yearbook came out, condemned blackface and also protecting his own actions by stating that he was “one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook.” Northam initially admitted to appearing in the image, though he did not say whether he was the one dressed in blackface or as a member of the KKK. Yet, later he retracted that admission, even though the photo appeared on a yearbook page dedicated to him. However, he did still admit that he appeared in blackface as Michael Jackson in a 1984 party. Herring, unlike the others, came out before anyone had accused him. He claimed to have worn blackface decades earlier.

Time Heals Voter’s Wounds

The most peculiar thing in all of this is that there is still large support for these politicians. A recent Washington Post-Schar School poll found that 60-percent of Virginians said that Herring should stay in office and 58-percent of African American Virginians said that Northam should stay in office. Even though Northam retracted his admission, he still had support by many. The reason why is because of people like Louise Butler, a 76-year-old woman with a deep history of Virginia, including segregation. She said that whatever views Northam held in 1984, she was confident that he was now committed to advancing racial equity. “He’s been a good governor, and he’s been good, as far as I know, to black people,” Butler said. The poll also showed that more Whites believed Northam should resign from office.

This support for political leaders in turmoil is similar to the careers of Richie Incognito and Tyreek Hill, discussed in Part 1 about Kareem Hunt . In the NFL, fans and teams need talent. In politics, citizens look for party lines, common ground and issues that pertain to them. They vote and support many times in spite of the controversy. Nevertheless, just as it did with Incognito, scandals have a way of compiling and spiraling if change and growth are not actually sought after.

In contrast to the current political cycle of dodge and spin, America should adopt a new age of moving forward. Imagine this. A photo comes out of a politician in blackface. Instead of denying that it was him, or retracting his admission, he (or she) comes out and takes full responsibility, admitting the racism and wrongdoing. He then explains the roots of his actions, why he did it, society around him. Context is given. It helps people understand his background. But not stopping then, he explains how and why he has grown and changed since then. He enlightens the public on the policies he’s supported to eliminate racial bias. Last, he commits to serve the community, support bills that will lift up communities of color and push America forward into greater equality. This is the way of Tyreek Hill and should be every politicians attitude and first choice.

Redemption and Rehabilitation

If we want politicians to start doing this, we need to set up an America that is focused on reform and rehab. We can start with our criminal system. America currently represents 4.4-percent of the world’s population, but houses around 22-percent of the world’ prisoners. We need reform. Rehabilitation should not be something that is just awarded to those we like. It should be a right that each of us are granted. And are many ideas on how to do this: give district attorneys, judges, and parole officers more discretion, don’t lock up mentally ill or addicts, provide more educational options in prison, use house-arrest for non-violent offenders, provide tax credits to employers who hire ex-convicts, allow for expungement after good behavior or community service or completion of programs, decriminalize drugs, bail reform, more halfway houses, larger public defender system, create more groups and ministries inmates can join, etc.

In spite of all of the brilliant ideas that there are, they are nothing without a commitment by us to reform and accept. We need to give second chances. Otherwise, we will continue to send people to prison, let them serve time, refuse to accept them back into society and watch them fall back into prison. We’ve created a debilitating system that desperately needs attention, both politically and socially. It’s time we start creating opportunities for redemption and rehabilitation. If we want change to happen, we need to be that change. When we start pushing forward, giving people the space to admit their wrongs and grow, they will start changing. It won’t matter if they are an athlete, a politician, a friend or a family member. Everyone deserves redemption.

Rehabilitation and Redemption Part 1: Kareem Hunt is Entitled to a Second Chance in the NFL

Kyler Murray is a Perfect Example of Why the Teenage Twitter Police are Predators

Kyler Murray Tweets Heisman

If you wait to bring people down in their in their shining moment, you are a predator.

Kyler Murray wins the Heisman, and on a night he is celebrated, the teenage twitter police wanted to tear him down. Y’all are going to have to stop trying to hold people’s feet to the fire for things they tweeted while 14-15 years old. People evolve and grow from stupid teens. Kyler Murray is now 21 years old. Consider the things did and believed to be true at 14 versus the things you did and believed at 21. Now stack that on top of the things you believe and do now. There was likely a ton of evolution of thought and maturity there.

Our need in society to tear people down in their greatest moments is sickening. Whoever unearthed Kyler Murray’s tweets from when he was 14 and waited to bring them out publicly should be embarrassed. The first click bait article about it 10 minutes after the Heisman ceremony was over. When somebody makes statements, tweets, or remarks that may be perceived as racist, sexist, or disparaging against someone’s sexuality it is fair for people to ask them about it. However, for someone to screenshot deleted tweets and hold on to them until your moment in the sun is wrong. Lying in wait to attack is predatory behavior. This is no different than showing up at someone’s housewarming and asking them about the time they got arrested for shoplifting or asking someone at their wedding reception about the time their child died.

After I said this on Twitter and Facebook a few people asked me would I feel differently if Murray’s tweets had been racist by a white person. I said no. In fact, this did happen multiple times in 2018. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen had racist tweets surface right before the NFL draft. Also, Milwaukee Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo had tweets come out immediately after he was named NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. I don’t know if either one of them is racist, but I realize that even if they were things could have changed from 14-21. They must be judged by their actions and character now. We cannot reasonably expect teenagers to tweet responsibly when adults find it a tough task.

Change Happens

When I was at  Oregon, I played with a guy who grew up with the skinheads and Aryan Nation crowd. I knew him for years, and even though we weren’t particularly close, his racist perspective wasn’t obvious. During my redshirt sophomore year, we sat down and had a very real conversation. He told me about his past and how coming to college was the best thing for him. He saw how wrong the people were who taught him falsehoods about people of other races. His college experience with friends and teammates showed him there were two kinds of people: good and bad. He learned that character was most important, not skin color. I’m not sure if that moment was where his epiphany happened or whether he just wanted to share it.

So, I hate to give him the only true test of racism. I asked him would he have a problem is one of the “good Black guys” married his daughter would he be ok with it. His honesty was, and vulnerability was admirable. He said it would be hard because an interracial marriage would cause so much tension within his family and community. However, if he treated her great, I would be happy and accept him and defend him.

The entire time I was sitting there in shock at what I was hearing. At 20 years old, I would have expected to hear this from a kid from the south or middle America, but not a kid from the melting pot that is southern California. My conversation with him did teach me a valuable lesson. We have to allow people room to grow, mature, and change. Everyone must be accountable for their words and actions, but we cannot be shortsighted enough to permanently label them racist, sexist, and homophobic. Imagine if there were social media and smartphones around to capture the ridiculous things you did and said as a kid. I can raise my hand and honestly say I would have a lot of questions to answer. So why on earth would people try and hold someone’s teenage tweets against them?

Let’s be wary not to tear people down in their golden moments. We have to judge people for who they are, not who they were.