An important first question for any aspiring politician

North Carolina Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page features an image of one guy in blackface and another wearing KKK robes. Is that Northam on the left, on the right, or as he now contends, neither?
Where are you, Ralph?

It was just another weekend of racism in America.

People on both sides of the political aisle called on Ralph Northam, governor of Virginia, to resign his position after he apologized for a picture in his medical school annual that showed a man in blackface standing next to a man in Klan robes. The governor was desperately sorry, although he couldn’t say which of the men in the photo was himself.

Later he said he was neither man, but admitted that he might have put on blackface at some point in the past. I guess he couldn’t remember when that was.

So, of course the 30-year-old photo of Mitch McConnell was pulled out as a gotcha to the right. We have all seen that picture before, and if it is true that two wrongs don’t make a right, then these photos do not balance one another.

A young Mitch McConnell, left, in front of a Confederate battle flag with one of his pals from the Sons of the Confederacy.

Oh, and on Super Bowl weekend a grand time was had by all even as the injustice done to Colin Kaepernick was once again roundly acknowledged. Heads were shaken. Kaepernick is unlikely to ever have the chance to play in the NFL again, but don’t quote anyone in the NFL on that.

I guess the best thing we can say is that Nobody Was Killed while Being Black.

I just happened to see “Green Book” on Saturday night. I highly recommend it for a couple of reasons. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are marvelous in their roles, and both are rightly nominated for Academy Awards in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, respectively. The movie reveals racism in the South in 1962 as a benign bow to “tradition.” The tradition was that white people looked down on black people. No disrespect, of course.

Look, there is a way for this to end, but the First Amendment almost guarantees that it never will. People are allowed to do stupid stuff. That shouldn’t mean that the rest of us cannot stand in judgment of them when the do that stuff.

And as long as college fraternities are around, racism will be a facet of their DNA until the fraternities themselves shut that crap down. And that won’t happen because the fraternities are led by people whose fathers were, in many cases, member of the same fraternities and did the same racist crap their sons are now doing.

People can do stupid things when they’re in groups of like people. Something about the security of being with a group of your fellows can make you lose your bearings. 

Years ago I attended a party someplace in central Texas. There were college kids there, and I believe I paid a cover charge. A country-rock singer whose name you would recognize was the entertainment, and there were a lot of fraternity guys there. You could tell they were frats because they were all in uniform, which at the time was white dress shirt untucked over blue jeans.

During the entertainment a man and woman — obviously not frats — got into an altercation right in front of me. The woman turned and hurled her beer cup at two frat boys. And she was immediately set upon by about 20 frat boys pouring beer on her and roughing her up. I would say that it’s what frat boys do, but in truth it’s what most groups of young men do whenever one of their number feels threatened.

My point is that where guys have a fraternity background they are likely to have done some commendable things for the community. They are certainly going to want everyone to know that they have done whatever that commendable thing is.

But in their private gatherings, you probably don’t want to know what’s going on. 

Forgive this broad-brush treatment of frat boys, but there is a good chance that every one of them have attended some gathering that had a racist cast. And within those frats there are bound to be guys who put on blackface for the event. No disrespect, you see.

Except that, if you DO see it you will know who is being disrespected. Of course, if you react negatively, the frat boys will try to brand you as too insensitive, too lacking in a sense of humor, too lacking to really be one of them.

That is what frat boys do.

We should know by now, and by now I think we should begin any aspiring politician’s background check with this question: Have you ever worn blackface?

Write down the answer, so that if and when the picture surfaces that brands that frat boy a liar, we will be able to quickly and easily snuff whatever political aspirations he might have had.

It will be like wearing a MAGA hat. We can look at the wearers now and know who and what they are. We’ll still be able to recognize them 35 years from now.

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