If someone does or says something legitimately racist, can they change, move past it – and regain societal grace?
After Governor Ralph Northam was accused earlier this year of wearing blackface in a college yearbook photo, calls for his resignation were almost immediate – including from the Virginia senatorial delegation and most of the 2020 presidential candidates. For instance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated…he must resign.” Hillary Clinton also tweeted, “…There is nothing to debate. He must resign.”
Are we sure there’s really nothing to discuss about this?
Mercy and Justice in 2019. While acknowledging what Governor Northam allegedly did as “appalling and hateful,” columnist David Brooks added, “yet in a lot of these cases, there should be some path to redemption,” noting that the Governor’s “record on civil rights is quite good. And so, whatever hateful thing he may or may not have done as a medical student, it’s not evident in his adult behavior. And I do think that mitigates toward some sense of leniency.” 
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bret Stephens elaborated in a New York Times article, “Should we judge people only by their most shameful moments?” – noting “he may have done something ugly and dumb many years ago, when he was a young man and prevailing notions of socially permissible behavior were uglier and dumber than they are today.” But, he similarly notes, “In the 35 years between those two points he has, by all appearances, lived an upstanding life without a hint of racial bias. If we are going to embrace a politics where that’s not enough to save a sitting governor accused of no crime, we’re headed toward a dark place” (emphasis added).
In an article too good to not over-quote, Stephens then asks readers to consider “perform[ing] an internal audit before we join the cast-the-first-stone coalition:”Continue reading