Ron Jackson: Northram should not resign for old offense

February 10, 2019 GMT

Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam made a mistake. However, it was last week, not three decades ago.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once said, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

George Wallace, who served four terms as Alabama governor, would give credence to Ali’s assertion. Wallace won election after turning from a middle of the road stance on civil rights to a full-fledged segregationist. His now infamous utterance during his inaugural speech forever sealed his iconic stature.

Wallace’s 1963 inaugural address included the line, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this Earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” His defiance of the civil rights movement would be the catalyst of his political career. Wallace also stood on the steps of his alma mater, the University of Alabama, to prevent black students from entering. He also ran unsuccessfully four times for president.

He was paralyzed during an assassination attempt in 1972 that ended his presidential campaign. Later in life, Wallace denounced his segregationist ideology and admitted it was his greatest mistake. Wallace was forgiven.

Today, we find ourselves embroiled in another senseless debate about long ago behavior of a current political operative.

Northam is defending a picture of himself in blackface from a 1984 medical school yearbook. That was 35 years ago. He was 25 years old. At the time, he was not an elected official. However, now he finds himself being scapegoated by his political party. He has become toxic to his fellow Democrats whose political careers are at stake.

How many of us that are more than 35 years beyond age 25 have not done something that today would be considered inappropriate? Did we tell bad jokes, streak naked in public, use drugs, fail to vote? And if we had, aren’t we better people today?

Northram, whom 99 percent of Americans had no knowledge of until this month, has not been accused of cross burning, lynching, blocking access to a public school or knowingly sentencing an innocent person to life in jail.

Yet, there is an effort to create victimization today based on something that occurred more than three decades ago. If anyone is offended today by something nonviolent that happened that long ago, they have wasted 35 years of life.

No, the governor should not resign. He didn’t harm anyone or deny anyone any rights. He was a 25-year-old doing what others in that age group did.

Hopefully he is not the same person he was back then. If so, it is safe to assume that person never would have been elected to his current office. This political lynching is comparable to judging a person today based on their driver’s license picture 35 years ago.

Even Arthur Bremer, the man who tried to kill Wallace, was forgiven after 35 years.

He was set free in 2007 after it was determined he is not the same man he was in 1972 when he plotted to kill President Richard Nixon before finding it easier to shoot Wallace.

Democrats, and blacks in particular, need to find real battles to engage. Because a sector of society chooses to be a victim, it does not make it a national crisis.

If anyone claims to be offended by a nonviolent, noncriminal act committed 35 years ago by a man they never had heard of until a week ago, they are a liar and should give up their current vocation and go directly into national politics.

Northam’s mistake was to ever entertain questions about something he might have done too long ago to matter.

In 1984, blackface and mullett hairstyles were acceptable norms.

Today, both could be considered offensive.