(NNPA)—“I apologize:” This call came at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (April 7)—right at the Free Press deadline.
The caller: Gov. Bob McDonnell. After exchanging pleasantries, the governor immediately told the editor/publisher the reason for his call.
Unsurprisingly, his urgent communication on this occasion was about his Confederate History Month.
Proclamation—the despicable decree that he issued honoring false heroes who fought to preserve the cruel system of slavery and to annihilate the United States of America and its promise of freedom.
We listened patiently. The governor immediately acknowledged that he had made a mistake and had amended his proclamation—a proclamation that ignored the atrocities of slavery in an ongoing attempt to sanitize the brutalization and degradation inflicted on Black people. The proclamation was an outstanding example of how Confederate “scholars” use the sin of omission to justify their flimsy racist arguments.
“I apologize for the mistake,” he told the editor/publisher. “I want you to know I made a mistake… (and) to confirm I condemn slavery.”
In apparent response to criticism by political friend Doug Wilder and negative national press coverage, the governor was making reference to his insertion of a paragraph in the proclamation condemning slavery as “evil and inhumane” and correctly blaming slavery as the cause of the Civil War.
He also told us he had made a sincere effort “to fix the problem” and that, in his next three years—plus as governor, he planned to take positive steps to bring balance to history and fulfill the enlightened Free Press—applauded promises he made in his Jan. 16 inaugural “Commonwealth of Opportunity” address. We also suggested to the governor that, wittingly or unwittingly, his proclamation—even with its amendment and apology—would only serve to regenerate the degenerate Confederate mentality because even the revised proclamation would use the seal of the commonwealth and taxpayers’ money to:
•Irrationally and unjustifiably place Confederate figures on the same historic plane as such true heroes as President Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and the 200,000 Black soldiers who arguably made the difference in defeating the traitorous, slaveholding South; and
•Support the state-sanctioned and financed outrageous sesquicentennial program that promotes Virginia’s shameful role in the Civil War. Elaborate plans to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War are scheduled to go into high gear next year.
We respectfully warn the governor again that he will face more trouble if he truly intends to keep his promise to help correct Virginia history and to fulfill his “Commonwealth of Opportunity” promise. A major source of the problem: The Confederate-sympathizing state sesquicentennial commission chaired by fellow Republican Speaker of the House William J. Howell, who shifted a sesquicentennial event from Hampton University when its president, Dr. William R. Harvey, insisted that the commission respect rigorous, fair-minded scholarship; and the commission’s unquestionably explosive plans that irresponsibly call for the showing of “Birth of a Nation,” a White supremacy movie that glorifies the violent, hate-spewing Ku Klux Klan. The solution? Rescind the ill-conceived, racially divisive Confederate History Month Proclamation and discontinue the governor’s embrace of the sesquicentennial activities that fuel the repulsive behavior of Tea Party types who are fanatically devoted to “taking our country back.”
Governor, we appreciate your call, with the hope that our conversation will prove useful in your efforts to keep your promises sincerely intended to build a better commonwealth for all Virginians.
(Raymond H. Boone is editor/publisher of the Richmond Free Press.)