Ralph Northam had the look of a dead man walking. Virginia’s Governor took over American news cycles recently and it appeared he’d resign before Valentine’s Day. Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps recent strategy by Republicans like Brett Kavanaugh, Steve King, and our current president, have altered the landscape. Maybe public outrage isn’t terminal any longer.

Don’t get me wrong; Northam should resign, if only for stupidity. Anyone that used black face as recently as 1984, should not only know better, but know it is a public relations nightmare. And tearful apologies don’t count if the offending person was discovered by someone else.

However, this movie is getting tiresome. A public figure is busted for being stupid when young. In Northam’s case, he was fighting Republican operatives trying to scare the voting public with a false narrative about an abortion issue. So they found dirt. Now no one discusses the abortion issue even though Northam is a subject expert.

I’m convinced that anyone revealing such stories, along with everyone making public statements demanding a resignation, must allow Buzz Feed to do a search on their life back to junior high and publish the results. This type story has become about outrage instead of anything substantive.

When we first decided to do something about systematic prejudice, we evidently accepted the fact that we couldn’t eradicate true racism, or sexism for that matter, so we targeted symbols. Symbolic bigotry is so much easier to handle. Besides, making a quick decision about racism is easy if there are props.

So, like carpenter ants, we busy ourselves identifying those fiends that symbolically out themselves as racist. Using the N-word is a no-brainer. Making references to watermelon, fried chicken, chains, slavery; or flubbing Martin Luther King’s name on television, is enough to warrant the forming of a whatever metaphor we currently use instead of lynch mob since lynch is also inappropriate.

We have a major political party that has survived on racism for fifty years and no one even bothers to call them out, much less offer the outrage we exhibit when one uses a slur, or gets caught with the Stars and Bars. When they talk about being tough on crime, immigration, or voting irregularities, no opposing politician even offers a rebuttal. The same rules apply to all bigoted incidents.

Sportscasters congratulate themselves for refusing to utter Washington, DC’s racist team name but never mention the true plight of Native Americans in today’s America. There are living Natives that aren’t allowed to vote because of a distant treaty. Maybe the only part of that treaty white people didn’t violate.

While we struggle with using the proper pronoun for transgender people, AOC is being subjected to unrepentant sexism on a daily basis, and any woman that takes a controversial public stance is subjected to the vilest threats one can imagine.

Last week, Major League Baseball announced that the Disabled List no longer exists. We now have the Injured List. While congratulating yourself about our progress, remember the teenage Olympic gymnasts, and what was allowed to happen to them by those responsible for their safety.

America worked really hard to eradicate lasting symbols of racism left over from the Civil War. All it took was one election to show how far away we still are. We’ve battled against symbolic bigotry since I was a teenager. Its time we started fighting for substantive equality.

Consider that the next time you are outraged by cultural appropriation.

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Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.