On Friday February 1st, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia Ralph Northam made national news as his 1984 college yearbook picture surfaced depicting two individuals: one wearing black face and the other wearing a KKK hood and robe. The Governor released a statement apologizing for his "decision to appear in the photo and the hurt it may have caused then and now." The Richmond Association of Black Social Workers strongly denounces the Governor's deplorable behavior regardless of when it occurred. His actions are offensive to the black community now and to OUR ancestors who were brought to this country 400 years ago in shackles and chains against their will, which is arguably the most detrimental factor in the systematic dismantlement of Black families that we see today. His actions are offensive to OUR ancestors who were raped, hung, castrated, and ripped apart from their families. His actions are offensive to OUR ancestors who were terrorized and hunted by slave patrols. His actions are offensive to OUR ancestors who were subjected to horrible medical experimentations by doctors and other scientific racists who wanted to do nothing more than to further their own self-interests. His actions are offensive to OUR ancestors who endured the wrath of Jim Crow by being hosed down and beaten by racist police while fighting for their humanity. His actions are also offensive to the descendants who continue to carry the intergenerational trauma transmitted from those experiences. which was the first and arguably the most detrimental factor in the intentional systematic dismantlement of Black families In the wake of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans being brought to this country, the Black community and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia are owed more than a guilt-laced apology. We are owed explanation of how he plans to atone for his behavior, which should include the identification of all persons complicit in the generation and publication of that photo. We are also owed an example of moral leadership, which should ultimately include him stepping down. On a daily basis, many Black people in the Commonwealth continue to face disenfranchisement from fair and adequate housing, living wage and job opportunities, access to optimal medical care, quality education, and true justice in the criminal justice system. His apology does not begin to address the institutional racism that that photo symbolizes. We want more. We need more. We deserve better.
Laurenia Mangum, MSW PhD Student, University of Pittsburgh Member, Richmond Association of Black Social Workers Ashley Waddell, MSW Member, Richmond Association of Black Social Workers National Member-at-Large Daryl Fraser, LCSW President Richmond Association of Black Social Workers