By DOUG THOMPSON
As a Virginian, I am too often embarrassed by the outright bigotry of those my fellow Virginians elect to office.
The Old Dominion is, after all, the state that gave us former Republican Sen. George “Macaca” Allen, the man who never met a racial slur he couldn’t utter.
Allen, thankfully, is gone but we still have bigot-in-residence Virgil Goode, the U.S. Congressman who raised a ruckus over a newly-elected Muslim Representative because he planned to take the Oath of Office on the Quran. That Representative, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, got the last laugh by borrowing, from the Library of Congress, a copy of Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian who is a hell of a lot more famous and revered than George Allen or Virgil Goode will ever be.
Unfortunately, Virginia is still overrun by racists, bigots, homophobes and knee-jerk conservatives who want to drag the Commonwealth back into the era when white men ruled everything and blacks and women knew their place.
Virginia is still reluctant to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. Instead, the state clings to Lee-Jackson Day, honoring Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That’s why our local courthouse was closed last Friday to honor those who fought to support the right to own slaves while the banks closed Monday to honor the man who gave his life in the name of equality.
And that’s why another elected Virginia racist, Del. Frank D. Hargrove of Hanover County, used Dr. King’s birthday to offend both blacks and Jews.
In an interview with the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Hargrove spoke out against the idea that Virginia should apologize for the days of slavery by saying:
“Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ? Nobody living today had anything to do with it. It would be far more appropriate in my view to apologize to the Upper Mattaponi and the Pamunkey Indians for the loss of their lands in eastern Virginia.”
Hargrove added that “black citizens should get over it.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch reporters Pamela Stallsmith and Olympia Meola noted in their story that “this is the most recent insensitive oral misstep made by a Virginia politician. In August, then-U.S. Sen. George Allen referred to a Virginia-born man of Indian descent volunteering for his opponent’s campaign as “macaca,” considered a racial slur in many cultures. Allen ultimately lost the election to Democrat Jim Webb. Last month, U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., R-5th, complained that the first Muslim member of Congress would take his oath with the Quran and warned of a possible Muslim takeover of the chambers.”
Hargrove’s insensitive remarks angered blacks, Jews and a number of Anglo-Saxon whites.
“When somebody tells me that I should just get over slavery, I can only express my emotion by suggesting that I am appalled,” said Richmond Del. Dwight Clinton Jones, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Hargrove tried to explain his racist slanders by saying “on the other hand, not a soul in this legislature had anything to do with slaveryÃ¢â‚¬Â¦It is harmful to society in general to keep recycling this thingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”
Del. A. Donald McEachin of Henrico County said on the floor of the House of Delegates Tuesday he is more than willing to apologize for Virginia’s role in slavery.
“I want to apologize. I want to apologize to the mothers and fathers of my ancestors who were transported to this nation against their will in order that this nation might be built upon their backs. I want to apologize to the mothers and fathers of the civil-rights generation who were hosed and bitten by dogs, and their children were killed in churches as they burned,” McEachin said.
A Jewish delegate, David L. Englin of Alexandria, said he was offended not only by Hargrove’s racism but also for “what it means when people of the respect and stature of a member of this body perpetuate the notion that Jews killed Christ.”
Hargrove’s response? “I think your skin is a little too thin.”
Virginia’s state seal contains a Latin phrase: “Sic, Semper, Tyrannis,” which translates to “thus always to tyrants.”
It is a fitting motto that should be applied to George Allen, Virgil Goode, Frank Hargrove and the too many other racists and bigots in our midst.