Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, after his Blackface Klansman scandal, promised he'd do right by black folks if we gave him a second chance. At the time, it felt like he was just trying to moonwalk his way out of racial quicksand, but he's since made a concerted effort to deliver the goods. Saturday, Northam signed bills giving state localities the freedom to remove or alter Confederate monuments.

NORTHAM: Racial discrimination is rooted in many of the choices we have made about who and what to honor, and in many of the laws that have historically governed this Commonwealth. These new laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive, and I am proud to sign them.

Just last year, Gayle King had to correct Northam when he referred to the first enslaved black people to arrive in Virginia as “indentured servants." That online course he took in not being racist has produced some great results. He's even suggesting the entire state take one in the form of a commission that'll study slavery's impact on Virginia and the resulting racial and economic discrimination. He's also signed a bill creating a commission to recommend a replacement for the Robert E. Lee statute in the US Capitol — presumably someone who didn't wage bloody war against the US.


Last year, Northam created the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, which discovered dozens of instances of overtly discriminatory language still on Virginia's books. There were still laws banning school integration, prohibiting the mass hysteria of black and white Virginians living in the same neighborhoods, and nixing interracial marriage. This racist bologna has been superseded by subsequent court rulings and legislation, but now they'll finally be removed from the books.

Delegate Delores McQuinn of Richmond praised the discriminatory language's repeal.

MCQUINN: Today marks an important step towards a more equitable and welcoming Commonwealth. Virginia's history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years. These new laws will make our Commonwealth better, and I am grateful for the Governor's leadership in signing them into law.

Delegate Lamont Bagby, Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said the caucus had advocated on these issues for decades to no avail, but now they have a supportive governor and a Democratic legislative majority to "put right what once went wrong." That's not just the intro to "Quantum Leap." It's also what happens you get off your asses and vote.

BAGBY: Today I am thinking about all those who came before us, and what this means for the black Virginians who have struggled, and continue to struggle, in the pursuit of justice and equity. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with Governor Northam to make these laws a reality in our Commonwealth.

There are currently more than 220 racist traitor memorials on public display in Virginia. Effective July 1, localities can freely "remove, relocate, or contextualize" the monuments. Toilets provide the best context for Confederate memorials but are unfortunately too small to manage most of them.

Northam also signed the Virginia Values Act, which protects LGBTQ Virginians of all races from discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces. It's like they're people! This is all great news, but that obviously won't stop some Republicans from being jerks about it.

Matt Whitlock, senior adviser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, responded to Northam's serious and poignant tweet with a curious bit of nonsense. It's hard to know whether he's deliberately trying to offend or if he's just lost his mind during his quarantine.

Northam also announced Sunday that he's expanding Virginians' overall access to voting. He's signed legislation that'll establish Election Day as a holiday, eliminate the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot, and allow early voting for 45 days before an election. He's rocking the progressive house during lockdown. Republicans likes to dismiss any legislation benefitting minorities as “pandering," but this is the kind of pandering we can believe in.

[Daily Progress / 13 News Now / CNN]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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