Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Again. Neither Has Forgotten.


Joe W. Dillard Jr., a 32-year-old former NAACP leader in Norfolk, agreed with the characterization of a generation split: “The younger generation wanted the immediate satisfaction of his departure. But they knew he wasn’t going, so either request some things to get them or we’ll stand on the sidelines crying over spilled milk.

Ms. Price, who represents heavily black areas like Hampton and Newport News, said when she returned to her district she realized that black voters were more divided in the scandal than national outcry would suggest. Some wanted Mr. Northam to leave, she said, but many were also so familiar with racism in the old Confederate south that they did not find his possible actions disqualifying.

She also sensed opportunities.

“For people who have privileges, learning usually begins when those privileges are compromised or proclaimed,” she said.

“There were people who called me just a weekend in Virginia Beach and told me what to do for my constituents,” Ms. Price said. “But my lived experience shows me that I have to proceed strategically.”

If today’s Ralph Northam sounds like someone who’s just completed a reading list of popular anti-racist literature, it’s because they did. He cites the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, the 1989 essay on white privilege. He says he was profoundly changed by the documentary “13th,” which focuses on racial bias in the criminal justice system.

“I don’t want to apologize, but when I was in college I wanted to go to medical school,” said Mr. Northam, who was a doctor before going into politics. “And I’ve been immersed in biology and chemistry since that time.” He continued, “Maybe I should have spent more time investigating our history, but I didn’t. But now I’m very interested in history. “