Monday, February 11, 2019


Ralph Northam didn't get my vote in the primaries, because I found his past appreciation for Dominion Virginia Power's finances problematic, but I voted for him for Governor. In January of 2017, when he appeared and marched with us at the Women's March, I was impressed, and more on board with him than before. He is a former Republican, and the voices deriding him as a present Republican, given that party's increasing lockstep behind the racist-in-chief, are perhaps hard to hear, but not 100% off base.

He has to go. Why he refuses to is bewildering in a painful way.

I don't want to bog down in a long post about all this, because frankly, the personal impact of Virginia politics right now is a fresh bruise. It's painful to live here these days.

When, in 2008, Virginia went presidentially blue for the first time, I didn't quite believe it. When we went Obama for the second time, I began to feel used to it. To tentatively own that I finally didn't live in a backward, reactionary state. And then we did it again, in 2016. There was still Dave Brat to contend with (I signed the petition to get Abigail Spanberger on the ballot at that march mentioned above), but I finally felt like Virginia was breaking away from the all too recent past of White Flight and reactionary thinking I had grown up surrounded by.

In 1982, when I entered high school, it was the Reagan years. Helped by a punk rocker in the house, who was having none of it, and the fact that I was the child of a scientist and the taunts on the schoolyard, "YOUR DADDY CAN'T BELIEVE IN GOD, HE'S A SCIENTIST!" I came to a different sort of politics than have been common here for most of my life. (My daddy, as he told me all his life to take away the sting those kids gave me, was a scientist precisely because he had such awe in the workings of a universe he believed to have been brought to us BY that God those kids underestimated so cruelly. Not an Intelligent Design guy by any means, dad's enthrallment in workings of all sorts was a major part of his faith in anything; and he did have religious faith.)

So I was extremely aware, in 1982 at the age of 14, and have been ever since, of the fact that my preppie high school was the product of White Flight, and the entitlement I saw all around me was not earned. I didn't know the phrase white privilege, but it was instantly recognizable once it appeared.

(W)e lay claim to a wisdom that people just a few years ago lacked, and accuse the recent past of deep ignorance.

I've been loath to actually look at old yearbooks this past week or so. Sure, the only thing that HAS brought me to look at them in about thirty years was the death of my best friend of 38 years, but even then my glances were pretty cursory. But now, the *apathy* of memory, thanks to a life of much greater richness after my K-12 years, has become an *agony*. From having no interest in looking back at the snobs I went to school with, I now have real fear of looking back at the well to do white kids I went to school with. Heck, the school itself.

I went to school with kids who absolutely would have donned blackface, as quickly as the Key Club (so enthusiastically) donned cheerleader outfits at every opportunity. Crappiest drag show ever. There were guys who drank, plenty who probably went on to become frat guys who sexually assaulted drunk girls, entitled asses who think they're nice guys and entitled asses who care not one bit about being good, decent, or anything else tolerable to the human race at large. They weren't my crowd (obviously), they weren't the whole of the student body, but they were crowd enough and then some.

Think I hated my school because it was so preppy? I hated my school because it embarrassed me. It embarrassed me then, and no less so now. They went with naming the place for a Massive Resistance spearhead instead of Edgar Allen Poe; this exposes the taste level - and "judgment" - of decision-makers in our community at that time.

So there doesn't even need to be blackface in my yearbook. The very name of the school said aplenty, and without a doubt some of us knew and despised what that name said. He himself was deplorable then, and I deplored him most especially on the occasion my best friend (a model student often trotted out to meet important people) was obliged to shake his hand, and I was introduced too, looking every bit as unimpressed as I was unimpressive to principal and politician alike, I'm sure.

The link above ...

The link above. I offer it without much comment, and not even necessarily endorsement, though it would be soothing for someone like me right now. There *is* a spectrum of ugliness, but for me as a privileged, relatively well-to-do white woman Of a Certain Age ... growing up where I did ... it is beyond my scope to say "this is right."

Oh, how I wish it could be knowably right, though. That would ease my liberal guilt.

Based on what I clipped for the quote highlighted, the real resonance for me is this: the sentiment accords powerfully with my general rantings about The Dirty, Stupid Past. By this, I'd love to absolve myself of all my own privileged complicity. There are stories I have debated recounting in public for years now - and, when I think about how I have aired out the most sensitive things on this blog, it's extremely plain that some of what I have held back owes to the same privilege Northam and Herring have had. So I should open that up, unpack that.

But that first link ... I'll lean OUT for a moment, lean back, not go all in. Not make anything about myself which absolutely is not. Not come up with any judgments.

I'm as fraught as the history of my state, these days. And ashamed as I was during the Reagan years, going to Beautiful Suburban White Flight High. So very ashamed, and frustrated.

Edited to add ...
Then I remembered our production of West Side Story, which I do think was in 1984. Teen after teen in brownface. Ugh.

THE CLICK BEYOND - good coverage of multiple aspects of this morass, for your analysis.

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