Is It a Bad Apple or a Bad Orchard?

A petition is being circulated by the Loudoun County Young Republicans demanding the recall of Democratic Loudoun BoCS Chair Phyllis Randall – the first woman of color in Virginia’s history to be elected Chair of a County Board – because she attended and participated in a Black Lives Matter rally during a pandemic.

Hey, Loudoun County Young Republicans, read the freaking room.  I know you may think that you are helping, you’re not.  Not only that, but also, you are just wrong. Not setting the wrong tone. Not bringing this up at the wrong time. Not going about this the wrong way. You’re just wrong.

Millions have taken to the streets to defend the idea that black lives matter. This includes several Virginia Republican elected officials like Congressman Rob Wittman, all three Prince William County Republican supervisors, and Mayor Hal Parrish, who marched with protesters and gleefully posted pictures of themselves clad in facemasks surrounded by BLM signs.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, the picture the YRs posted was a purposefully darkened picture of a black woman stating that she was unfit to hold public office.

According to Loudoun Now: “The 2016 Loudoun Now photo of Randall featured above the petition on the website is used uncredited and without permission and has been darkened.”

There is an insidious history of darkening the pictures of African Americans in an effort to make them appear menacing to whites. Researchers Adam L Alter, Chadly Stern, Yael Granot, and Emily Balcetis found that media articles critical of behavior tended to be run next to darker pictures of the subjects, while positive stories are run with lighter or brighter pictures. This propensity led to what the researchers termed the “Bad is Black” effect. The Loudoun YR’s efforts to darken Chair Randall’s picture is clearly and shamefully in line with this obviously racist practice.

Furthermore, the tone-deafness of citing one of the Reconstruction Amendments to try to humiliate an African American elected official attending a Black Lives Matter rally shows a willful ignorance of history or worse yet a detestation for the reason behind the passage of the 14th Amendment.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were ratified in the five years after the Civil War and were enacted to begin to correct the horrific wrongs perpetrated against enslaved blacks in this country.  The right to equal protection under the law was designed to avail African Americans of the opportunity to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity as written in the preamble to the Constitution.  It was not placed there as a cudgel for young political activists to use with great discrimination against an African American elected official with whom they disagree.

It was discriminatory because there was no cry by the Loudoun YRs to recall the white elected officials who attended various rallies during the shutdown.  This includes those who spoke at the Reopen LocCo Rally on May 15th.  According to the Reopen LocCo Facebook page, “Tuscarora Mill is allowing [the rally] to use the north end of their parking lot to set up a PA system and Dave LaRock, Caleb Kirshner, and other political figures will be speaking.”  This selective outrage also excludes Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian), a white ally, who according to Loudoun Now “has also been a regular presence at those [BLM] protests.”

Did the Loudoun YRs denounce these elected officials or start a petition for their recall?  What was different about these elected officials coming out during a pandemic that garnered so little attention from the YRs?

As a former Young Republican club chairman and state board member, I am stating unequivocally that the Loudoun County Young Republicans need to stop this foolishness and apologize to Chair Randall for their, at best, racially insensitive actions. Although in reality, the darkening of Chair Randall’s picture and the fact that the group chose to overlook similar activities when perpetrated by white elected officials of both parties goes far beyond racial insensitivity.

Why am I writing this piece defending a Democrat and maligning a group of Republicans on a conservative political blog?  Because these are the folks who apparently need to hear it.

When almost 67 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter protests but the VA-GOP has its next generation of political activists darkening the pictures of black elected officials while using the same amendment as Brown vs the Board of Education to justify their call to remove the first woman of color elected as a BoCS chair, someone should say something about it.

The Republican Party of Virginia, not just its leadership but its members, must call out racism whenever it is found within its ranks. The days of equivocation and mumbled concerns are gone with the wind.  They were swept away when Corey Stewart stood with Jason Kessler and then draped himself in the Confederate flag even though he hailed from Minnesota, the first state to send troops to the Union army. They fluttered off when Shannon Kane photoshopped a picture of her Latina opponent into a picture depicting her as a member of MS-13. They were further blown afield when Amanda Chase blathered on about preserving “white history.” Now there are the Loudoun YRs petition to remove Chair Randall but not any white elected official who attended gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of these things is a bad apple, but when no one speaks up against clear incidents of racism because they fear a political backlash from the base, it looks like the whole orchard’s rotten to the roots.

I doubt that the Loudoun YRs will heed this advice, and in fact, I am quite sure that this message will fall on deaf ears and loud mouths from many within the Republican Party of Virginia. The party that was once the home to Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass has lost its way; political disagreements should never descend into these types of vulgar displays.

Chair Randall, you did not deserve to be treated like this, and, even if I am only speaking for myself, I condemn this petition and decry the people who put it forward.  Regardless of political affiliation, as Virginians, we should demand better.

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