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Virginia Democrats Are Willing To Ignore Both Blackface and Accusations of Sexual Assault

Liberal Americans seem unable to grasp or remain in complete denial over the idea that not every Democrat is a good person. This was made apparent in Virginia.

TW/CW: mentions of racism and sexual assault

The Virginia State Government has turned completely blue with last week’s election, a result that the country hasn’t seen in over 25 years. Gaining two seats in the Senate and six in the House of Delegates, Democrats won a 21-19 and a 55-45 majority, respectively. The night was historic for many reasons, including the election of Ghazala Hashmi who is the first female Muslim state senator from Virginia. 

Virginia’s voters— both Democrats and Republicans— are supportive of progressive policies like gun control and healthcare. Support for free insulin in Virginia clocks in at 79% while allowing drug price negotiations is supported at 73% according to this Data for Progress poll. With Democrats controlling “the trifecta,” a progressive agenda might be in the cards for the recently Republican-controlled state. Though some of Virginia’s Democratic leadership remain more moderate than progressive, there is now hope for gun control legislation, healthcare reform, and the departure from rampant xenophobia and racism spewed from the Republicans for years. Right?

Liberal Americans seem unable to grasp or remain in complete denial over the idea that not every Democrat is a good person. This was made apparent very recently with both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Virginia facing huge scandals at the same time. 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (right) and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (left), shown at an election night rally in 2017

Earlier this year, Governor Ralph Northam was accused of being in a damning photo of two white men—one dressed as a member of the KKK and the other sporting blackface. Northam denied being either of these men. Lucky for him, the hood and shoe polish make it really hard to tell. Despite that, he went on to admit wearing blackface at another time. Really, Ralph? As we learned from Justin Trudeau if you’ve done blackface once, who can say you haven’t done it two or three or four other times? 

Despite the fact that he did, in fact, wear blackface— and kind of gleefully retold the story— Northam refused to resign, calling himself “what Virginia needs right now.” I’m not quite sure I understand how the state of Virginia needs a racist governor unwilling to be held accountable for his actions. He seems to fall on to the (ever-growing) list of white people who swear they aren’t racist just because they are liberal, left-leaning, or progressive. The two are not mutually exclusive. They never have been. Democrats would do well to remember that if they want to win the trust of Black and brown people. To win in 2020, the Democratic candidate needs people of color — especially Black people — to trust them, their policies, and their character. Allowing people like Ralph Northam to rise to the top of the Democratic Party is a bad look, to say the least. 


As if that wasn’t enough, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has two credible accusations of sexual assault against him. Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps University, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him. Meredith Watson says Fairfax raped her in a “premeditated and aggressive” way when they were both in college together. Despite Fairfax’s vehement denials and accusations that these are political attacks against him, the women both want public hearings to tell their stories under oath. Watson and Tyson deserve a Democratic Party that believes them and supports them. We should always believe survivors, whether their rapists are Republicans or Democrats. The Democratic Party supports progressive policies and protections for people who have survived sexual assault and domestic violence. We shouldn’t support the politicians who commit these very crimes.

I’m happy that the Democrats won in Virginia, but it’s time we hold Democrats who have done harm accountable. Being a racist or being a rapist isn’t okay. Being a Democrat doesn’t excuse that kind of behavior. At least it shouldn’t. 

Reina Sultan is a Lebanese-American Muslim freelance journalist and one of the co-creators of 8 to Abolition. She is a PIC abolitionist and anarcha-feminist working to dismantle systems of white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy. Her work can also be found in VICE, Bitch, ZORA, Greatist, Teen Vogue, and more. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for hot takes and cat photos.

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