Sunday, February 10, 2019

Let's Go to the Yearbook, then the Videotape

It has become a common practice for anyone involved in a hiring process to first check an applicant’s social media pages before extending an employment offer. Conversely, it is not unusual for smart candidates to scrub their postings of any offensive or questionable entries. 

With the Brett Kavanaugh and Ralph Northam debacles as guidance, it seems we have descended into a new level of background exposure—high school and college/graduate school yearbooks. How better to know the person sitting anxiously across the desk from you than to gaze onto his or her adolescent picture and wonder what “real” image might be found within the pages of a yearbook? As if actions of a decade, two decades, or more, ago have relevant bearing on the values and character of the adult in the room.

Does anyone doubt that in most Southern states blackface pictures similar to those in Northam’s medical school yearbook could be found in high school and college yearbooks from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? 

Yet, I return to my stated belief that the high jinks of youthful indiscretion should not be a disqualifier. How a candidate, or an elected official, comported him- or herself in adulthood should be paramount. 

In other words, short of a criminal act, such as that alleged against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, there should be a statute of limitations for dredging up old behavior deemed inappropriate by today’s standards.  

Politicians, especially those seeking the ultimate higher office, must practice patience. Yes, the 24-hour non-stop news cycle demands comment. How about a simple, let’s wait for all the facts to come out before rendering judgment? The rush to judgment practiced by too many today might make for a good soundbite but demonstrates little capacity for contemplative decision making.

No doubt part of the equation considered by politicians is how specific voter segments will respond to allegations. It has been presumed that blacks, so crucial to any effort to unseat Trump from the Oval Office, would be clamoring for Northam’s removal, by his own choice or through impeachment. 

Leading Virginian pols, black and white, have called for his departure. But do we know what a majority of black voters feel about him?

According to a poll by The Washington Post/Schar School, more Afro-American voters in Virginia (58%) say Northam should stay on as governor compared to those who want him to resign (37%). (

Not surprisingly, the poll demonstrates that the black community is not monolithic. Consider the controversy over Adam Levine and his group Maroon 5’s halftime show during last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Several black performers rejected the idea of headlining the show as a way of expressing solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er quarterback who sought racial justice against police actions by beginning the take-a-knee protest during the national anthem before games. Kaepernick has been unsigned for two years, what his supporters claim is coordinated and racist retribution by team owners and the league. 

Consciously or not, the National Football League went out of its way to spotlight black entertainers at the game. Chloe x Halle sang “America, the Beautiful.” Gladys Knight sang the national anthem. Travis Scott and Big Boi performed with Maroon 5. Most of the players in the NFL’s own TV ad were black. 

It’s time to step back and reflect on what’s good for Virginians. The end result might not complement what we want to see, but one yearbook picture—even if it represents a thousand words— does not speak for the progressive deeds of a lifetime.

Let’s Go to the Videotape: Sportscaster Warner Wolf made an impressionable career from his signature exhortation, “Let’s go to the videotape.” Now in retirement in Florida, videotape has captured his rebellion against a vestige of racial oppression.

According to a one paragraph story in The Journal News, “Sportscaster Warner Wolf is facing a felony charge after police said he damaged a sign outside his (Naples) Florida community because it included the word “Plantation,” which he considers racist. Collier County records show Wolf, 81, surrendered Thursday on a felony criminal mischief charge and was released. The sheriff ’s office said Wolf long complained about his community’s name, Classics Plantation Estates. Deputies say surveillance video shows Wolf removing the letters Nov. 30. They say he gave the letters to a security guard, telling him to pass them to the property manager. Damage is estimated at $1,100. Wolf declined comment Saturday and his attorney didn’t immediately return a call.”

Bravo, Warner!