Augusta County Democratic Party leader offers unique perspective on Ralph Northam

You thought nothing could top Ralph Northam having to be held back from moonwalking. And then, there’s former Democratic State Sen. Frank Nolen, on Facebook.

“A picture of a white man and black man standing together as brothers is not racism. It is a sign of brotherhood. A picture of a klansman and black man standing together means to me reconciliation,” Nolen, as of this writing the chairman of the Augusta County Democratic Committee, wrote on his Facebook page Monday.

As was pointed out to Nolen, multiple times, on the post, the photo in question – of a man in blackface, and another in a KKK hood and robe, included on the medical-school yearbook page of Northam, dating to 1984 – is not actually of an actual African American man and a second man in a KKK hood and robe.

Not even Northam himself is attempting the mental gymnastics necessary to make the photo into some sort of clever statement on racial harmony, though, we’re only four days into him trying to defend himself on this, and his wife wouldn’t let him moonwalk in front of reporters, so, this one could be next.

For context into Nolen, it probably helps to point out that his term in the State Senate encompassed all but two years from the period 1974-1996, an eternity ago in the history of Virginia politics.

Southern Democrats of that era were the descendants of the ruling elites who waved the bloody flag of the Civil War to remind you that it was the Radical Republicans who fought the Civil War and freed the slaves.

It’s a little more complicated in terms of what that meant in Augusta County, which, more context, according to the 2010 Census is 95.02 percent white.

Augusta County hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since FDR’s fourth and final run in 1944.

Marshall Coleman, a Republican who was elected attorney general in 1978, and then ran twice for governor, first rose to prominence in 1975 when he unseated Nolen in a State Senate race.

Coleman resigned two years into his term to run for attorney general, and Nolen won the seat back, and served 18 more years before being defeated by Emmett Hanger in 1995.

As this was going on locally, old-line Southern Dems had already begun migrating to the Republican Party, first in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and were by 1980 were becoming the Reagan Democrats who helped unseat Jimmy Carter in his re-election bid.

There aren’t many of those Southern Democrats still around.

Credit to Nolen for sticking to his roots, but those are some tangled roots.

Back to his Monday post: in a comment on the post, Nolen doubled down on his, how to put this, unique perspective on race relations.

“When they are together, it means they have buried the hatchet and are in harmony with each other,” Nolen wrote. “The black man no longer fears the white man and the white man no longer feels he is superior or better that his new brother. The black man respects the white man and the white man respects the black man. The black man forgives the white man and the white man has accepted redemption.”

Again, it’s not an actual African American man in the photo, Frank.

It’s a white man in blackface.

Blackface isn’t something that implies any kind of respect for African Americans; it’s how whites have mocked African Americans dating to the slavery era.

Also again, not even Northam is trying to suggest that the photo was a clever statement on racial reconciliation gone awry.

“I am not the sharpest nail in the keg,” Nolen conceded, understatement of the week, “but isn’t that the way we will eradicate racism?”

Column by Chris Graham

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