Va. delegate calls for tough conversations about racism

WASHINGTON — Virginia is commemorating 400 years of history this year, and marks four centuries since the first enslaved Africans arrived on its shores.

Since 1619, an uncomfortable story has been wrought, one replete with terror. Certain symbols — some with painful, hateful, or demeaning significance attached to them — have been a visceral part of that story.

“There are some symbols that are embedded in the hard drive of our minds,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn during comments on Valentine’s Day commemorating Black History Month.

“Every now and then these symbols and their messages suddenly resurface just as if it had been transported in a time machine,” said McQuinn. “It resurfaced with the Charlottesville riot. It resurfaces every time Donald Trump says there are good people on both sides. It resurfaces every time an African American life is snatched away because they’re black — like the situation in South Carolina at Mother Emmanuel Methodist Church.” 

The use of symbols with a demeaning history cropped up a few weeks ago when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface in their younger years. Both admissions came after a racist photo surfaced in Northam’s medical school yearbook.

McQuinn did not mention Northam or Herring by name, however.

“The recurring question is: where do we go from here?” she asked.

The way forward and beyond the Commonwealth’s painful history in the African American community, McQuinn said, is through tough, honest conversations about uncomfortable ideas that are usually swept under the rug.

McQuinn says love is the key — the tool to overcome all obstacles.

“The symbol of Virginia should absolutely be love. After all, our official motto is ‘Virginia is for Lovers.”

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