After Racist Photo Scandal, Black Voters Have New Support

Governor created diversity director, vetoed sentencing bills
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2019 6:17 PM CDT
After Racist Photo Scandal, Black Voters Have New Support
Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to sign bills that will support economic development projects throughout Virginia last month in Richmond.   (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Issues important to black people have found new support at the top of Virginia's government lately. Since Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls to resign after he apologized for a racist yearbook photo, he's created the job of director of diversity, equity and inclusion, the Wall Street Journal reports. He's ordered a review of the history curriculum in state schools after students and teachers criticized textbooks' coverage of black history. And he's vetoed two mandatory-minimum sentencing bills that he said would hit black people disproportionately; he wrote an oped in the Washington Post pointing out the evidence supporting that concern. The Democratic governor's spokeswoman said he is carrying out the promise to address racial inequity that he made in February, after the photo surfaced.

Some Republicans are critical of Northam's actions, including the House majority leader, who cosponsored one of the mandatory minimum sentencing bills, per the Journal. "For the governor to veto that so that he could overtly try to pander to the people that he has offended, I think, is proof that he has lost his ability to govern," Todd Gilbert said. Supporters hope for more during the rest of Northam's term, which runs through 2021; Virginia's governors can serve only one term. Tyrone Nelson, a Richmond pastor who co-chaired Northam's 2017 campaign for governor, sees promise in his actions lately. “It’s up to the people of the commonwealth to continue to hold the governor’s feet to the fire," Nelson said, "and make sure he keeps his word." (More Ralph Northam stories.)

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