Open letter to Gov. Northam

As representatives of the Democratic Party in Rappahannock, we applaud you for stepping up to the challenge of bringing redemption to Virginia politics. After the revelation of racially offensive photos 35 years ago in your medical school yearbook, you have pledged to stay the course as governor so that you can spend the remaining three years of your term bringing about racial reconciliation in the Commonwealth.

The racial discord so embedded in Virginia culture, on display a year ago in Charlottesville in the riots triggered by a few Confederate monuments, was only the tip of the iceberg. These yearbook photos reveal how deep and how far back such ugliness has existed in our Commonwealth.

Many prominent Virginians immediately called for your resignation, as if that would somehow make the problem go away. Yet a recent poll shows that the majority of African-American Virginians, 58 percent, are in favor of you staying in office. We should listen to them.

After much soul searching, you have pledged to change things in Richmond. You would bring sensitivity training into your cabinet and the schools. You would encourage greater enrollment in the Medicaid programs you recently expanded. You would resurrect your early idea to gather the state’s confederate monuments into a central location as artifacts of Virginia’s past (but not its present) so that we can preserve our history, which must not be lost.

Other good ideas floated by your office include improved transportation infrastructure in rural areas so underserved populations can get to their jobs; increased affordable housing in poor areas; better access to higher education to all Virginians; extended support to small businesses; and a fight to prevent infant and maternal mortality, a cause that must be close to your heart after your career of caring for children as a pediatric neurologist.

These are all commendable measures and long overdue. But they don’t go far enough. Further, we urge you to withdraw your support for the Dominion Power’s Atlantic Pipeline compressor station at Union Hill in Buckingham County, on land founded and settled by freed slaves. This unit would spew pollutants into the community and render it uninhabitable with ear splitting noise. It would essentially obliterate a historic African American landmark.

But perhaps more important than all, you must be the standard bearer for voting rights in Virginia. We need to eliminate the photo ID, stop purging voter rolls, eliminate the excuse requirements on the absentee ballot, and make election day a state holiday so people can get to the polls without financial penalty. And of course we urge your support One Virginia 2019 to correct the harms of gerrymandering in Virginia.

All eyes are on us. Especially since the horrors of Charlottesville, we have been talking about homegrown racism and implicit bias in Virginia. You now have the power and the mandate to do something about it.

We ask you to set an example and demonstrate to the world that we are capable of fulfilling the high moral ambition of our founders at last.

Signed, The Rappahannock County Democratic Committee

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