Virginia Governor Ralph Northam‘s predominantly black church wants to give him another chance after a photo of him wearing blackface surfaced online. Among Northam’s supporters, they seem to be among the only people who still want him in power.
“I think he has the right to prove himself,” said First Baptist Church Rev. Kelvin Jones, a pastor based in Northampton County whom the governor considers a mentor.
Jones did not say that the governor must resign in light of this weekend’s events.
“I think that he has the right to serve until he feels he’s no longer capable of doing the job,” Jones said. “And he has to come up with those reasons as to why. Whether it be the lack of support, whether he just feels ineffective, or whatever.”
Jones said his congregants who he has spoken with have not responded “negatively” about the governor. He said his church believes in “giving people another chance.”
“That’s what we preach and teach,” Jones said. “We say it all the time. But when it comes to put it in practice, if it doesn’t fall in line with what we particularly feel or the political climate, then we step aside.”
I’m all for practicing what you preach. But Northam gave more press time explaining his reason for choosing shoe polish to do a Michael Jackson routine than apologizing or expressing regret over the horrific symbolism of his choices. There’s plenty of time for him to earn forgiveness outside the governor’s mansion.
I’ll grant that it’s possible Northam isn’t the same man he was three decades ago. His public policy decisions have been decisively in the direction of civil rights. But many other Democrats promote those same policies without the racist baggage in their personal histories. As far as his church is concerned, forgiveness and reconciliation — or political support — don’t have to be one and the same. It’s possible to forgive and cease fellowshipping with someone who may or may not understand the consequences of such a “costume.”
(Screenshot via YouTube)