If we mixed all the words of all the languages together, including Whale song, there would still not be enough words to express my unadulterated gratitude that all of my Youthful Stupidity was conducted well before Social Media was all-pervasive.
And yet I know there exists a deeply unflattering photo of me, somewhere, held by someone I no longer know, in which I am shit-faced drunk and looking it. Thus, I can never become famous lest this photo gain value. So far, so good.
Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia, is currently embroiled in a scandal of his own making when a college yearbook photo of him emerged, a photo in which he is either in Klan robes or blackface, he’s not really sure?
College, not High school, yearbook in 1984. I was a full-grown adult in 1984, that could even be the year that terrible photo of me was taken. I was young, too, and clearly capable of youthfully stupid behavior. But not in blackface, and not in Klan robes. In my memory, both were things one just did not do, let alone have photos taken and published in a yearbook, in 1984. This isn’t just youthful stupidity; it’s a culture. A dangerous culture, which has no place in our Government, at any level.
There was a way to handle this. He could have made it an object lesson, by revealing it first and with abject shame, apology, and a nice fat donation to some worthy cause championing Black and People of Color. But that isn’t the way these days, it’s deflect, deny, defend. Threaten a lawsuit. Whine about being attacked. Question authenticity. Deny it’s even you, while acknowledging there may be more such photos.
The cover-up is always worse than the lie.
White dudes (because it’s almost always a White Man, isn’t it?): it’s not a weak person who apologizes, it’s a strong, ethical person who can admit his wrongs. It’s a strong man who can say, “I did some stupid stuff when I was young, and some of them still keep me awake at night. It’s not who I am now,” and, coupled with a record reflecting that, you might be surprised by how understanding the voting population might be. After all, we all have things of which we are not proud, things we did while also Youthful and Stupid. One might also come to understand how a huge number of one’s constituency no longer trusts you with their lives, and it will be hard work to regain that faith. It’s a strong person who undertakes that work.