Don’t Talk About It, Be About It: Black caucus members warn embattled VA Gov. Northam

It's clear Virginia's Legislative Black Caucus are not here for the empty handed gestures of apologists

Gov. Ralph Northam
Black lawmakers are not interested in Gov. Ralph Northam's symbolic olive branch. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s attempt at racial reconciliation is good on pomp but empty on substance, according to several members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Northam is participating in a racial reconciliation group headed up by former Gov. Bob McDonnell. The goal of the group, Virginians for Racial Reconciliation, is to encourage honest dialogue between state leaders on the inequities found in state policies and how they are implemented, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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But members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus took to Twitter to denounce the move as empty.

“Glad they didn’t call me — matter of fact don’t call me until you have some substance,” Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, who chairs the Black caucus, said on Twitter.

Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, tweeted: “I’m with you [100 percent]. The issues that need real work — roll up your sleeves get dirty work are not new. Let’s not talk about it let’s be about it. Redemption/reconciliation is a journey not a destination.”

Added Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, in a tweet: “[Bagby] hits the nail on the head. Part of addressing our divide is understanding history, but the larger part is the policies that tear down the institutionalized racism we’re talking about.”

In February, Jones spoke out about persistent instances of inequities across the state during a speech in the House, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. In the speech, Jones said state leaders need to combat racism by changing policies to reflect their reconciliation, “like access to capital with non-predatory interest rates, expanded access to the ballot box, and real criminal justice reform that includes the restoration of rights … not just window dressing — are just a few things that we all need to focus on NOW,” the newspaper reported.

Several other state politicians weighed in, including Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th and Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico.

“Proud of you Lamont. Enough chit chat. Long past time for action!” tweeted Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th.

“Actions speak louder than words. Advance policies around civil rights/equity,” Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, tweeted.

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According to these frustrated state leaders, not enough has been done since a photo of Northam was released from his 1984 medical school yearbook, appearing to show the governor in blackface. However, Northam said it wasn’t him but admitted to other racist actions in his past. He has refused to resign, despite many calls urging him to.