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Gee: A curious case of two apologies from Virginia officials

Lt. Governor-elect Justin Fairfax, Attorney General-elect Mark Herring, and Governor-elect Ralph Northam Dec. 18, 2017 in Richmond, Va. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Pretty much anyone who watches or reads the news has heard about Virginia lately, and its troubled elected officials.

Without trying to lean in a particular way toward a party, or make excuses, I want to compare a couple of these men and how they acted in the face of a crisis.

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Personally, I am not sure what seemed so hilarious or charming about donning blackface in the ’70s and ’80s, but apparently it was a “thing” then. Today, in 2019, when it is beyond socially acceptable, men in power are having to scramble to come up with excuses for why they did it.

Enter Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, whose page in his college yearbook shows a picture of a man in blackface and another individual wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. When the picture surfaced, the governor spun it in all directions.

We heard everything from “it wasn’t me” to “OK, I did dress up as Michael Jackson one time.” Northam was almost going to try and moonwalk it off.

Then, amid calls from his own party to resign, he offered a weak, scripted apology.

To add to this circus, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring came out and admitted that he, too, had donned blackface in the past to emulate his “favorite rapper.”

But here’s the difference — Herring owned up to his role. He immediately gave a response that not only took ownership of his role, but he even addressed how his actions made others feel.

“It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” he said.

The part where he says, “I knew well even then” is where it really takes accountability. Scripted or not, I can forgive a guy who owns his mistakes. I really can’t forgive a guy as easy who fumbles through excuses, then makes an apology when backed in a corner.

Our ability to know the difference, is our ability to move forward when we are wronged, or if what we do hurts others.

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