Letter to Gov. Northam
It is with urgency that I pen this letter in response to the racial insensitivities surrounding the Governor of Virginia, Ralph S. Northam. Here we are once again, walking the rocky road of racism and reconciliation. A route that seems to consistently be delayed because the signs we see don’t match the navigation we hear. As our state, and country, became aware of the racist behavior in question, the call from both people and peers has been clear in requesting resignation. I don’t believe this is an unreasonable petition considering the pain and public tension that is being caused as a result of Gov. Northam’s actions.
The recent revelations of our Governor, regardless of their year, have once again resurfaced the deep thread of racial injustice and distrust that has so deeply stained our country, and especially the Commonwealth of Virginia. I stand with those who call for his immediate resignation. This does not discredit his contributions in Pediatric care, military service, or public service, but it is clear that with these stains of racism in the fabric of his reputation, he is no longer qualified to help us move forward with civility, reconciliation, or unity as a state. While I am an advocate for grace, Grace is not always a substitute for accountability. This is unacceptable, disheartening, and inconsistent with what it means to represent all peoples you are called to serve. Any alternative outcomes are a clear representation of privilege and problematic to the hope of “trust” from people of color in our state.
I believe it’s worth noting that I accepted an opportunity this year to serve on the Virginia Commission for Racial Reconciliation, a body of leaders from various markets throughout our State. This group committed itself to the commemoration of slavery’s dark past in the state of Virginia as we reflect on the 400th year of slavery hitting American soil on the banks of Richmond. We also committed to being catalyst for conversations that will lead us into a more reconciled future as a sate. Governor Northam is a member of this commission and I can acknowledge that in my interactions with him, all-be-it brief, I would not have expected a character controversy to this effect to surface. If the Governor is sincerely committed to curating conversations of reconciliation, as I once believed he was, it is in the best interest of our state that he steps down and steps into spaces where he can hear from those he hurt.
In his most recent statement, the Governor asked for the opportunity to “earn the forgiveness and faith” of those in the Commonwealth of Virginia once again. Let me be clear, I am for forgiveness! Furthermore, I am ready to have the difficult conversations in love that will lead to a more racially equitable Commonwealth. However, I would name for the Governor, and for those that believe that his forgiveness should be accompanied with a political future, that forgiveness and faith of this kind is earned in pursuit of an office, not while holding one. That forgiveness and faith of this kind, are not found on the hill but in the neighborhoods of the disenfranchised and disinherited. Faith and forgiveness can be found, but not within the conditions that have been created at the present time. And the immediacy of public policy and interest should be our focus at this time.
In closing, I give you my commitment, that we will not allow this to go quietly into the dark. Nor will we ignore the Christian responsibility we have to be prophetic voices speaking truth to power. We will not mask social responsibility with religious overtones. And we will not allow the word forgiveness to be mis-represented as a necessity to remain faithful to an officer who does not appropriately represent the office. Jesus himself was not only concerned about the soul of man but spoke very clearly to the conditions that the soul was exposed to. Whether Jesus was speaking against the political landscape, economic disparity, or communal conditions, he did so while honoring both God and honoring the humanity of all people.
Our time has come to do the same. To find the discipline within ourselves to be both firm in our convictions for change, while remaining honorable to the human being who caused the hurt. To openly and confidently condemn behaviors inconsistent with our beliefs without compromising the Christian witness. We can attack the actions without attacking the man. We can reject faithfulness to the officer while interceding for his family. We can be models in a time of great need of what it means to be unapologetically honest and humane. Let us continue to pray for our government, Governor Northam, his family, and an amicable outcome for the situation at hand.
Vernon L. Gordon III