Ralph Northam: On the Road to Damascus?

ralph northamRalph Northam appears to be interested in trying to turn the recent controversy over a blackface/KKK yearbook photo into a sort of Road to Damascus moment.

The Cliffs’ Notes version of the original: Saul, a Jewish religious leader on a self-directed mission to root out the nascent dissident Christian sect, was blinded by a light while traveling to Damascus, and became perhaps the world’s best-known Christian proselytizer.

So, to Northam. If you want to repair your reputation from a photo on your yearbook page depicting one guy in blackface, and another guy in KKK garb, you’re going to need more than words.

What Northam is considering: a broad-based legislative platform including increasing resources for affordable housing, promoting equity in small business procurement, expanding economic incentives for entrepreneurs, increasing state funding for education.

Which, that’s a start.

Having his Air Pollution Control Board reverse its decision allowing Dominion to build a compressor station for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the predominantly African American Union Hill community would be a huge step forward.

Another: criminal-justice reforms to reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenses, which disproportionately impact African Americans.

More symbolic, but just as big, would be legislation allowing localities to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces.

He can’t take back the photo, which he now says he wasn’t in, after originally saying that he was, before making it about him painting his face with shoe polish as part of a Michael Jackson get-up for a dance contest.


Northam can at least work toward paying back that balance.

Column by Chris Graham

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
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