Posted on February 14, 2019

Northam’s Apology Tour Is Too Little Too Late for Many of Va.’s Young Black Leaders

Whittney Evans, NPR, February 14, 2019


Northam is planning to head out on what he’s calling a reconciliation tour and has vowed to focus the rest of his term on racial inequality while also examining his own white privilege.

And many older African-American activists have softened their tone on the governor, especially since two women have accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault and the attorney general, Mark Herring, also admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s.

That’s not the case for as many young black community leaders in Richmond who say Northam’s apology is too little too late.


The idea being that while Fairfax will have to face legal consequences if he did what he’s accused of, “there is no system, except for the people, to hold Ralph Northam and Mark Herring accountable,” and if the people don’t, no one will, says Chelsea Higgs Wise who is 34 and works at an anti-racism organization in Richmond.

Wise says her concerns with the governor go back before the scandal to when she campaigned for him in 2017. She says it bothered her that Northam wouldn’t use words like “black people” or “race.”

“Even in these spaces that were made for African-American people to come hear him talk, he would talk about those that were disenfranchised, those that were of poor means, but would not say our names.” A spokesperson for Northam’s office called that claim “absurd.”


Meanwhile, at Virginia Commonwealth University, Ravi Perry, the chair of the political science department, is talking to young Richmond Democrats about how they can move beyond the recent scandal.

“I have not met one person, under the age of 40, in the last two weeks who has said anything other than ‘resign.’ It’s been clear. It’s been across racial lines,” he says.

Young Democrats want leaders who are actively addressing race, he says. It’s no longer good enough not to be racist. “We have real issues. And we’re not talking about those issues,” Perry says the conversation is around the men in trouble and their careers.