Black History Month is ending with more shenanigans from the great state of Virginia.
First Lady Pam Northam drew condemnation after state employee Leah Dozier Walker complained about her daughter and two other Black children receiving raw cotton during a February 21 tour of the governor’s mansion, reports The Washington Post. The children are members of the 2019 Senate Page class. Northam was showing off a cottage that used to be a kitchen when she handed out the cotton.
“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,” Walker wrote in a letter acquired by The Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I cannot for the life of me understand why the first lady would single out the African American pages for this — or — why she would ask them such an insensitive question.”
Northam apologized for the faux pas on Wednesday, according to NBC.
"I regret that I have upset anyone," Northam said. "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."
Virginia’s government officials have been heavily scrutinized since resurfaced yearbook photos showed the first lady's husband, Gov. Ralph Northam, in blackface. The photo was taken in 1984 and depicted one student in a Ku Klux Klan robe and the other in blackface. Gov. Northam initially apologized for the picture but later denied he was one of the students in the image. He eventually admitted to wearing blackface when he dressed up as Michael Jackson for a costume contest.
There have been calls for Gov. Northam’s resignation, but he has refused to step down. One of his harshest critics, state Attorney General Mark R. Herring, also admitted to wearing blackface during his college years.
Walker, who heads the Office of Equity and Community Engagement in Virginia’s education department, believes the first lady’s actions prove Virginia’s politicians learned nothing from the controversies.
“The Governor and Mrs. Northam have asked the residents of the Commonwealth to forgive them for their racially insensitive past actions,” Walker wrote.
“But the actions of Mrs. Northam, just last week, do not lead me to believe that this Governor’s office has taken seriously the harm and hurt they have caused African Americans in Virginia or that they are deserving of our forgiveness.”
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