Biblical and Constitutional Politics
Ralph Northam and the Rage Mob
By Gary F. Zeolla
A controversial photo from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was released on Friday, February 1, 2019. It shows two men, one in blackface and one in a KKK outfit. Below is Ralph’s page from the yearbook with that photo.
Shortly after the release of this photo, Ralph released a statement of apology, saying he was one of the two men in the photo, though he wasn’t sure which one. I wrote comments about that photo and Ralph’s statement early the next morning. Later that Saturday morning, I posted those comments as a section in my article While I Was Occupied: Part Three. That section also includes my comments on Ralph’s equally controversial statements about abortion a couple of days earlier.
But then that afternoon, Ralph held a press conference in which he changed his story about the photo. As a result, I need to update my comments. However, if the reader has not read that initial section, I would encourage you to do so, as it gives background to what follows. It has the simple subtitle of “Ralph Northam.” Be sure to read both the part about abortion and the part about this yearbook photo, as both will be referred to in what follows.
Between those comments and the following two-part article, I know my comments on this situation are quite lengthy. But that is because, as I thought, researched, and began writing about it, I realized this situation ties together and highlights many points I have addressed in previous articles this year on this politics website, in my book Tearing the USA Apart, and even in my Christian writings, most especially my two-volume set God’s Sex Plan.
My Devil Costume and College Yearbook
Before getting to my updated comments, I want to relate an experience of my own from about the same time period as the controversial photo.
I went to Penn State University from 1979-83. Ralph’s yearbook photo is from 1984, but that was when he graduated from medical school. He was 25 at that time. Doing the math, that makes him two years older than me.
For my freshman year at Penn State, I went to an extension campus, but then to Main Campus the next three years. My first year at Main Campus, I stayed in a dorm. Come Halloween, I was quite surprised when most of the students dressed up for Halloween, as I had not done so since sixth grade.
For my sophomore year, I had moved into an apartment. Just down the street from my apartment was a store that converted to selling just Halloween stuff in October, so I decided to join in the fun and dress up for Halloween. I looked around the store and decided on a devil costume.
Mind you, I was not a Christian at this time. I was raised Catholic, but I had stopped going to church when I turned 18, which was before entering college. That will be important shortly.
In any case, for the costume, I bought a full-head rubber red devil mask with horns and a short (18”) red pitchfork. But when I got back to my apartment and tried on the mask, I could not stand having my entire face covered with rubber. It smelled, and I could barely breath. I knew I would not want to wear that for an entire evening.
I then came up with a bright idea. I cut the face area out of the mask, went back to that Halloween store and bought some read face paint. I put that on my face. I figured painting my face red, with my beard, then with the mask covering the rest of my head, that would give me enough of a devil look. To complete my costume, I wore a red shirt, red pants, and even red “elevator” 70s style shoes.
If I say so myself, I thought the costume looked quite good, so good that I wore it again my senior year. I wish I had taken a picture of myself in the costume, but I did not own a camera. And you must remember, this was the early 1980s, and at this time, “cell phones were science fiction” (to quote a quote from my book Tearing the USA Apart in regard to an incident concerning the Kavanaugh hearings, which were about incidents also from this same time period).
It is important to note, I remember it being quite difficult getting that red face paint off my face both years, especially getting it out of my beard.
But why did I paint face my face red? Was it to mock the devil? Was it out of bigotry against devils? Of course not. The reason I painted my face red is the same reason I wore red clothes--the devil is traditionally picture with red skin and clothes. He is also traditionally pictured with horns and a pitchfork, hence why I kept the rest of the mask, just so I would have the horns, and bought the toy pitchfork.
My senior year in college was the last time I ever dressed up for Halloween. That is because shortly after I graduated from college, I became a Christian. And Halloween is anything but a Christian holiday, so I do not celebrate it at all. The closest I come to doing so is to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” each year.
However, I never felt it was necessary to apologize or to “repent” of having dressed up as a devil for Halloween. It is not something I would do now as a Christian; but again, I was not a Christian at that time, and getting dressed up for Halloween was perfectly acceptable at Penn State.
Also, as a Christian who has read the Bible numerous times, I know now the Bible never says the devil has red skin, wears red clothes, has horns, and carries a pitchfork. In fact, the Bible never describes him at all. That image of him just grew over the centuries.
Another point to note is I did not buy my college yearbook. I never saw it. I have no idea what is in it. As such, I have no idea if my picture is in it, though I seriously doubt it, with there being thousands of students in my graduating class. Consequently, it would be quite a surprise if a picture of me from that yearbook were to turn up today. I would be especially surprised if a picture of me in that devil costume were to turn up today, given that back then, everyone was not walking around with cameras in their pockets like they are today.
Ralph’s New Claims About That Picture
With that background, let me turn to Ralph Northam’s press conference. I recorded it on FNC and CNN. But for some reason, FNC on my Comcast cable system had not been appearing properly the previous few days. The pixels were all messed up, and the sound was a bit distorted. The problem came and went, but it “came” for the conference and during the pundits’ comments afterwards, so I did not watch much of them on FNC. I instead watched the conference and the talking heads pontificating about it for the next two hours on CNN.
That said, Ralph started the conference by saying he was neither of the two people in the controversial picture. That contradicts his statement from the day before that he was one of the two, but he could not remember which one and upon which my previous comments were based. But if I had remembered my devil costume experience, I should have known that initial claim was quite fishy.
Again, when I put on that full-head mask on, with it covering my face, it was quite uncomfortable. I would assume it would be the same with a KKK hood. For that reason alone, wearing such a hood would be something someone should remember, along with the very strong and vile message such a hood represents.
And again, I remember clearly putting that red face paint on my face, those two Halloweens being the only times I ever put makeup on my face, and with how hard it was to get it off. Again, I assume it would be the same with black face paint. Thus again, a man should remember if or when he had used face paint.
However, I did not think of all of this when I wrote my initial comments, as again, this was all from over 35 years ago. That aspect of this story people seem to be continuing forgetting, just as they were continuing forgetting that what Kavanaugh was accused of was from 36 years before, as I discuss a length in my Tearing Apart book.
My point is, Ralph’s new claim makes more sense than his initial claim, that he was neither of those pictured. How then did that picture get on his page in his yearbook? Ralph says he asked someone who was involved in putting together the yearbook, and he told him that they mixed up several pictures, putting them on the wrong pages. That was because they had many pictures before them that were not labeled.
That point seems plausible, given that it is impossible to identify the two people in the picture, with the face paint and the hood. That is, unless the two young men who are in the picture were to come forward and say that is them, not Ralph in that picture. But that is highly unlikely, as those two young men are probably now well-respected doctors, whose lives and careers would be ruined if they came forward.
Ralph further claimed that he never bought his medical school yearbook, that he never saw it, and that he had no idea that picture was on his page. He says the first time he saw it was when the rest of us did, on Friday, February 1, 2019. That point also seems plausible, given that such is my own experience with my college yearbook.
Finally, Ralph said he submitted the other three pictures on his page, so those are of him. But he never saw the controversial picture until the day before.
If Ralph had come out initially with these points, emphatically denying he was in that picture, saying it was on the wrong page, and that he had never seen it before, I would still be saying I believe him. I would further be saying that given these very plausible points, all of the furor was unjustified. I would also be saying there would be no reason for him to apologize, as he did nothing wrong.
However, that is not what happened. He instead came out with what I now realize is the strange claim that he was in the picture but did not know which person he was, but then he completely changed his story the next day. And this changing of his story has many now doubting the plausibility of his new claims.
As for myself, I don’t know what to make of it. Again, his new story makes perfect sense, so why did he make that initial statement? It has set him up for the charge of being a liar, along with being a racist. Either his initial statement was a lie or his new one is.
Of course, he could have just been confused initially, but no one will give him that benefit of the doubt. He probably knew the Rage Mob would go into full swing over the picture, so he felt he had to come out quickly with a statement, felt an apology was best, and went that route.
Let this be a lesson to the reader. If you ever come under the irk of the Rage Mob, say nothing until you are sure you have all of your facts straight. And then only say as little as need be to explain the situation. Do not apologize, unless absolutely necessary. But if you do, realize you will not be forgiven, so it might be best not to even try.
The Michael Jackson Story
If the press conference had ended there, maybe Ralph would have been able to come out from under the irk of the Rage Mob, though I doubt it. But he ensured the outrage would continue when he felt a need to tell of a time when he did wear blackface.
Now let me stop here and say this is a difficult decision. If there is something in your past that is potentially damaging, and you come to be in the public eye, should you come out and confess it before it becomes publicly known? That is hard to answer.
I have freely confessed that I did many things back in the day that were sinful and wrong and that I deeply regret. I detail some of those in the next to last chapter of my book God’s Sex Plan: Volume Two. But in my case, most of those sins were before I became a Christian. In fact, it was guilt over those sins and the forgiveness that can be found in Christ and His death on the cross for our sins that led to me becoming a Christian. No other religion or belief system offers the guarantee of forgiveness before God that the Christian faith does.
But being forgiven before God does not guarantee that you will be forgiven by people. In fact, the chances are slim that you ever will be, as the Rage Mob knows nothing about forgiveness. All it wants is blood, so it might be best to just keep quiet about any skeletons in your closest unless you absolutely have to deal with them.
But in Ralph’s case, he felt a need to tell the story of a dance competition he entered while in medical school, so we are talking once again about the same time period, that of 35 years ago. He said that he planned on doing Michael Jackson’s “Moon Walk.” Given that was to be his dance, he figured he’d dress up as Michael Jackson, with Michael’s signature shoes and single glove. And since Michael Jackson was black, he darkened his face with shoe polish to make himself look like Michael.
He further said that he hoped people would realize there was a world of difference between the use of face paint in the controversial photo and his use of it for his Michael Jackson costume. The former is a clear-cut case of racism, of painting one’s face to mock an entire people group, while the later was simply part of the costume, to make himself look like the intended person. He also said it was perfectly acceptable at that time for a white actor to use to face paint to look like a black person, if that is what the role called for.
This is now another reason for my devil costume story. Again, I wore red face paint not to mock the devil but to look like him. As such, it makes perfect sense that if a Caucasian wants to look like an African-American, he or she needs to darken his or her skin.
But as Dana Loesch (whose show The Dana Show is one of this website’s Standard References) often says, “Nuance is dead.” Ralph should have realized this, that there is no way the Rage Mob would understand the distinction between these two very differences reasons for darkening one’s face.
In fact, Dana has told two stories that illustrate how crazed the Rage Mob can be in this regard. The first occurred last October (2018).
It was the story of a little girl who dressed up as Princess Tiana, the first black princess in Disney’s movies. She wanted to do so as she thought Tianna was the most attractive female she had ever seen. But this little girl was white, so to make herself look like Tianna, her mom helped her darkened her skin.
Her mom thought she looked adorable in her Princess Tiana costume, so she posted a picture of her in the costume on social media, and the Rage Mob went into overdrive with its attacks on not just the mother but also the little girl. They were vilified to no end, including receiving death threats. “How dare the mother dress her little girl up in blackface?”
The Rage Mob could not see the difference between using blackface to mock African-Americans and the use of face paint to make a little girl look like a princess she adored, and thought was beautiful, so she was trying to look like her for Halloween. Dana supported the mother and daughter, believing the Rage Mob was out of line in so attacking them.
The second story is even sillier. Dana told it on her show on January 30, 2019. This was before this whole situation with Ralph came to light. It concerned a man who got outraged over a picture in a restaurant. Then picture showed a group of white men whose faces were darkened. The man thought these men in the picture were mocking blacks with blackface and complained to the manager.
The manager explained to the man that the men in the picture were coal miners who had just come out of their coal mine. Their faces were blackened from soot. It was not face paint. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with coal mining should understand the situation. Coal mines are dirty places, and all coal miners look like that when they exit a coal mine. But this simple and logical explanation did not satisfy the man, so he continued to rage about the picture, even returning later to the restaurant to complain about it some more. Dana supported the restaurant, saying the man was being silly.
I tell these stories to show that Ralph was probably foolish to think his story of using shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson was going to fly with the Rage Mob, as the Rage Mob would never understand the distinction between that and blackface.
He further dug himself into a hole when a reporter asked him if he could still do the Moon Walk. Ralph looked around a bit to see if there was room for him to do so, but his wife Pam stopped him before he attempted it, shaking her head and saying, “Inappropriate circumstances.”
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed, as I wanted to see a 59-year-old man try to do the Moon Walk, as I know I couldn’t. But then, I never could do it back in the day either. But his wife was probably right. In fact, the Rage Mob has used his even thinking of doing it as showing how Ralph was making light of the whole situation, not understanding how offensive his use of face paint was, even if it was to look like Michael Jackson.
Additional Points from the Press Conference
In the press conference, Ralph also addressed the offensive nickname of “Coonman” that appeared on his yearbook page. He said that was not the nickname that most students called him back in medical school. It was only two older students that called him that, and he had no idea why they did so and why that name was used on his yearbook page. His more common nickname was “Goose.” That was due to the way his voice screeched like a goose when his voice was changing. It was the nickname everyone called him by in high school, college, and med school, except for those two older students.
Finally on the press conference, Ralph empathically said he was not a racist, not back then, not since then, and not now. He said his career in the military, in medicine, and in politics shows that. He had never been accused of being a racist before, and his records shows that he is not. He even said he had several black friends.
The Media’s Reaction
As indicated, FNC was not working properly on my cable system, so I watched the news conference on CNN. I continued to watch CNN for the next couple of hours. Their first guest was NAACP President Derrick Johnson. He immediately condemned Ralph, not at all believing anything he said in his news conference. He did not believe Ralph’s new claim he was not one of the two people in the photo. He did not believe his claim he never saw his yearbook before the day before. He did not believe his claim that he was not a racist back then nor today. He also said that was not common nor acceptable back then for whites to use face paint to look like blacks. He also said that a person saying he had black friends was a standard dodge for racists. He then empathically called for Ralph to resign.
That set the stage for every other talking head that appeared on CNN. Not a single one believed a single thing Ralph had said. Not a single one gave him the benefit of the doubt. Every one of them called for Ralph to resign. But one pundit made an interesting observation. He said he was surprised Ralph had such a racist past, given all that he has done for the black community as governor. He said that Ralph has visited black communities, has attended black churches, has blacks in his administration, and his polices have greatly benefited blacks in Virginia.
I felt like screaming at my TV, “You’re missing the whole point!” Even if Ralph were one of those two people in that photo from so long ago, and he was a racist back then, he has changed. He is not a racist anymore. That is why we should not hold something he did 35 years ago against him. It is what he has done throughout his life since then and what he is doing now that matters, not one event three and half decades ago.
Americans used to love a comeback story, giving people a second chance. But no more. As I relate in my initial comments, that is because America has ceased to have a Christian consensus, with its concept of forgiveness and redemption. It is now attack and vilify people, with no possibility of them ever being forgiven and redeemed.
That can be seen in that one of the CNN pundits compared Ralph to Brett Kavanaugh, and in an off-handed way, referred to Kavanaugh as a “sexual predator.” That label is a major point of my Tearing Apart book. No matter that there was no collaborating evidence for any of the allegations against Kavanaugh, he would be forever labeled as a sexual predator in the minds of millions of Americans. Knowing that is why Brett spoke so strongly in his testimony at the sexual allegation hearing, as discussed in my book.
But back to CNN. After that missed opportunity to give Ralph a break, the benefit of the doubt, as often happens on CNN, things degraded into silliness. They began saying another sign of Ralph’s racism was Virginia’s Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax is black, and Ralph is refusing to step down because he does not want a black man to become governor. There is zero evidence of such an assertion, but CNN often makes assertions for which there is zero evidence.
Then things degraded into outright hatred, not just for Ralph but for all “privileged white heterosexual Christian males.” That is when I had enough of CNN and turned to FNC. That is a normal experience for me when trying to watch CNN or MSNBC. I can only stand so much of it, before it becomes outright ridiculous and hate-filled, though usually that hatred is directed towards President Trump and all those who support him.
In any case, I was a bit surprised when the same type of reaction was occurring on FNC. One of the co-hosts was Arthel Neville, a black female. She also did not believe a word of what Ralph said and called for him to resign, as did everyone she and Eric Shawn, her white male co-host, interviewed. But at least there was no disparagement of “privileged white heterosexual Christian males.” But then, I didn’t watch FNC very long due to the technical difficulties.
This two-part article is concluded at Ralph Northam and the Rage Mob: Part Two.
See end of Part Two.
Ralph Northam and the Rage Mob: Part One. Copyright © 2019 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
Tearing the USA Apart
From Kavanaugh, to Incivility, to Caravans, to Violence, to the 2018 Midterm Elections, and Beyond
The United States of American is being torn about by political differences more than any time since the 1960s and maybe since the Civil War of the 1860s. This division was amplified by political events in the summer to fall of 2018. This time period could prove to be seminal in the history of the United States. This tearing apart came to the forefront and was amplified during the confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. This book overviews the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings in detail. It then overviews these additional major events that occurred up to the end of November 2018.
The above article was posted on this website February 7, 2019.
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