Virginia's First Lady under Fire, Allegedly Handed out Cotton to Visiting African-American Students
Pam Northam, the wife of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, is in the eye of the storm after she handed cotton to the only three African-American girls during a tour through the governor’s mansion.
The incident happened on a tour for state Senate pages. While the group was in the mansion’s kitchen cottage, Pam talked to them and even gave pieces of cotton to the only Black pages in the room.
One of the girls was the daughter of Leah Dozier Walker, the director of the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education. Leah wrote a letter to Pam’s office complaining about the incident.
We had the honor of celebrating 31 years of @HRPrideVA! Virginia is a more welcoming and inclusive place because of your hard work. Be sure to join us at PrideFest on June 22nd at Town Point Park in Norfolk! pic.twitter.com/vFoW4SvnY9— Pamela Northam (@FirstLadyVA) February 14, 2019
LEAH WALKER’S LETTER
In the letter, Leah explained, “Mrs. Northam then asked these three pages (the only African-American pages in the program) if they could imagine what it must have been like to pick cotton all day."
This Alexandria early childhood classroom combines multiple funding sources and is located within a housing complex next door to the site of @amazon’s new HQ2. All this is made possible by collaboration and leadership at the local level! #ECE pic.twitter.com/fm5iTJFtVm— Pamela Northam (@FirstLadyVA) November 30, 2018
Even though shocking, it is not the first time that the Northam family gets backlash over racist problems. Pam’s husband, Ralph, was also involved in a scandal after a photo showing him in blackface resurfaced.
Apart from that shot, taken from his medical school yearbook page, another one shows him in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. First, Ralph admitted that he was in the photo, but later denied it.
In the end, the man confessed to wearing blackface once to impersonate Michael Jackson at a dance contest. Soon after the cotton scandal hit the Internet, Pam released a statement that read:
There is no way in hell she thought this was ok!— Walk it Out (@DeLo2) February 28, 2019
“I have provided the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops with the intention of illustrating a painful period of Virginia history. I regret that I have upset anyone."
That's not an apology ... it's her saying she shouldn't be held accountable for being a racist.— Rochelle Dolim (@MariposaX) February 28, 2019
She added, "I am still committed to chronicling the important history of the Historic Kitchen, and will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future."
Apart from that, they said that not only the Black children were asked to take the cotton but the entire group as it was part of the tour experience. Pam reportedly has tried to contact the mothers of the pages to apologize face to face, but she has not gotten a response yet.
The Democrat shared the photos Thursday with the Governor's Office, which had not previously seen them. https://t.co/quleb5ZMGX— Tallahassee Democrat (@TDOnline) January 24, 2019
MICHAEL ERTEL’S CASE
Unfortunately, Pam and Ralph are not the only people with political links involved in a racist incident. Michael Ertel, who started working as Florida’s Secretary of State on January 8, submitted his resignation only two weeks later after photos of him wearing blackface surfaced.
Ertel, 49, was the Seminole County supervisor of elections when the pics were taken. They showed him wearing blackface, red lipstick, earring, and even false breasts under a dark purple shirt that had “Katrina Victim” on it.
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