Tuesday, 12 September 2017 06:00

At NAACP forum, Northam and Gillespie talk race, history and Charlottesville Featured

Written by Graham Moomaw | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia’s two major gubernatorial contenders grappled with big questions of race, history and white supremacy Thursday night at a candidate forum in Richmond hosted by a coalition of NAACP chapters.

Last month’s violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville loomed large over the forum held in an auditorium at Virginia Union University, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie denounced the Aug. 12 event as a display of hatred.

Northam, a Norfolk doctor and former state senator, also criticized President Donald Trump for what he described as a lackluster response to the racist groups who attended the “Unite the Right” rally.


“Inclusivity starts with leadership,” Northam said. “And I regret that the president of this great country of ours did not denounce what they were there for. He didn’t call it out for what it was.”

Under Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Northam said, Virginia has moved toward being a more inclusive state. In a Northam administration, he said, “that message will continue.”

Gillespie, a political consultant and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, delivered a lengthy repudiation of racism, without mentioning Trump.

“If you believe that one race is superior to another, or that one religion is superior to another and its believers, that’s worse than immoral. That is dehumanizing,” Gillespie said. “And that is the presence of evil in our world. And we have to reject it.”

Moderator Phillip E. Thompson, president of the Loudoun County NAACP chapter, drew a contrast between Gillespie’s answer on Charlottesville and the messages coming from elsewhere in the GOP.

“In some of their statements, I wish some other individuals who are Republicans had been as forceful in saying that,” Thompson said as the event came to a close. “It would have made a lot of African-Americans feel a lot more comfortable about where we are as a country.”

Gillespie responded with a nod of acknowledgement.

Northam and Gillespie took the stage separately for around 45 minutes each of questions from Thompson; former Del. Michael Futrell, a Democrat who represented a Prince William County district from 2014 to 2016; and D.J. Jordan, a Republican congressional aide.

Northam reiterated his support for removing Confederate statues, while stressing that monuments to inequality “not built of bronze” are just as important to address.

“If a statue in Charlottesville gave these white supremacists an excuse to march into that beautiful city and spew their hatred and bigotry, then we need to have a discussion about statues,” Northam said. “I have said all along that these statues belong in museums.”

Gillespie said he believes decisions on Confederate monuments should be made at the local level, adding that he doesn’t personally support taking them down.

“I think that we do need to teach about the objects of the statues. We don’t need to glorify them,” Gillespie said. “We need to acknowledge we were on the wrong side of history in Virginia.”

A Republican-supported state law designed to bar localities from taking down war memorials might block localities from removing Confederate statues. Gillespie has not said whether he does or does not support that law, saying he’ll await the outcome of litigation pending in Charlottesville that could gut, reaffirm or clarify the statute.

The two candidates were largely in agreement in several other policy areas, including loosing Virginia’s marijuana laws to cut back on racial disparities in drug arrests, raising the state’s grand larceny threshold and strengthening public schools as a way to lift young black people out of poverty.

The two differed sharply on the best way to improve K-12 education, with Gillespie calling for more public charter schools and Northam saying existing schools should receive more funding.

“I’ve always said that I will support a charter school if that’s what a locality wants to do. But that shouldn’t come from the state level,” Northam said. “We have to be very, very careful. We are not funding K-12 public education anywhere near where we should.”

Gillespie said: “I think we’ve got to shake up the system a little bit. We have to challenge the education system.”

The election is Nov. 7.

Link to original article from the Richmond Times Dispatch

Link to Facebook Live event


Read 5447 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 September 2017 03:21

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