Yearbook Photos and Quotes

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I remember the quote I put on my picture for the high-school yearbook:
I had a good quote to put in, but I forgot it. 
I wasn't actually being truthful with that quote: I had thought about it and decided that was what I wanted to put in, and further, I liked the way it suggested that my answer was spur of the moment.

What's the point?  A conscientious person is careful about what he says in public.  Even in that pre-Facebook era (early '70's), we knew, or should have known, by the time we finished high school. 

To some extent, responsibility for publishing filthy yearbook material should devolve on the institution:  Eastern Virginia Medical School, who was in charge back then!?  Unless, of course, a yearbook is published entirely independently of the school by some local printer, which I think would be the exception.  The conclusion you must unavoidably draw is that these school institutions tolerated expressions of racial supremacy, while they would not have tolerated, say, nudity. 

Knowledge of that should have conditioned the editors of the yearbook, and in the case of Governor Northam of Virginia, I would think it is critical to consult them as to whether "Ralph"* had been expected to provide, or to consent, to the stuff on his page.

In this sense, I think the best possible move in Northam's case was to announce his resignation effective in 30 days, giving the issue time to be fully understood.  It may turn out that way, anyway; he might end up resigning, and it could be just as well.  The same goes for Lt. Gov. Fairfax, who may or may not survive but deserves the opportunity to remain and defend himself if he so chooses.  If Northam is to resign, he should have the chance to control the succession. 

One thing was clear in the 2017 election:  Virginia voters chose against racial attacks (see the campaign of Ed Gillespie, the Republican loser).  If the only reason Northam wants to stay on is to have the discussion regarding the deep-seated enablement of racism in Virginia's culture, that's worth ten full one-term gubernatorial administrations in "the Commonwealth".

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I went to Jr. high and high school in Virginia, in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  We wouldn't have put that kind of stuff in our yearbook, nor would we have it on our stages.  Why?  Because we had black people in our schools.  That's strictly-white-people stuff; the stuff some would do or say if they knew there were no blacks around,  such as in a segregated school or a private school.

Which is not to say there were no racial tensions where I was--there were plenty. Mostly they were below the surface, though a single incident could lead to big problems.+

So, there were a few people I knew who loved to make racial slurs.  Learned behavior, I'm guessing.  They sought to be careful, though, not to be overheard.  The rest of us, we didn't have to join in, agree or anything--just nudge them if they needed to shut up.  That's what I'm talking about when I say the problem--and I'm fairly sure it hasn't changed all that much--is the "enablement of racism".

I didn't get it for quite awhile afterwards.  It is the notion that it is not just a question of the safety of such talk, or of free speech; it is the need to challenge it.   What seems strange is that it isn't "on behalf of my'uns", but of course, that's just what it is!

 I don't know about Northam's area--he is from the Eastern Shore, I've heard, which is a place unto itself--and, as I say, this medical school's yearbook thing is quite suspicious (as are the folks' motivations for turning this up just now), but he gets the chance to say what his experience was growing up, how people treated him, and how he responded.   Then, preferably, he resigns and goes back to his life in peace.   


*His real name is Ralph?  Seriously?  (I always think of the actor Jeremy Northam, who could easily have portrayed the 'guvnor in the film biopic of this guy's tragedy.)

+We had about 20% blacks in our schools, typical of the area (Shenandoah Valley had less slaveholders than much of the South). Today, that population mix means "fervently Republican", for some strange reason.

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