Monday, April 15, 2024
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Steyn spears the blackface brouhaha


LAST weekend TCW’s Campbell Campbell-Jack legitimately asked: ‘Is the Democrat Party in the USA going morally insane?’ Amongst his evidence in support of this thesis, Campbell cited the Bill proposed by a Virginian Democrat which would permit abortion ‘even after a mother goes into labour’.

Campbell further recorded that although the Republican majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates defeated this Bill, it had been enthusiastically endorsed by the State Governor, a former paediatric neurologist named Ralph Northam. Governor Northam is the Democrat who so far has defied his party’s wish for him to resign – not, of course, because of that position on abortion, which is entirely on-message, but owing to the subsequent revelation that in a 1984 student yearbook, when Northam was in his mid-twenties, his page had pictured two men in disguise, one blacked-up as a minstrel, the other a hooded Klansman.

Ralph Northam initially apologised for being one of the pair although he did not say which; confusingly, he then denied being in the photograph at all, apparently muddling it with having once blackened his face to impersonate Michael Jackson for a dance contest. Invited by a journalist to demonstrate to the press conference Wacko Jacko’s trademark moonwalk, the Governor momentarily appeared to consider doing so before apologetically declining: ‘My wife says “inappropriate circumstances”.’ 

During one of many discussions on CNN regarding the blackface brouhaha, one contributor attempted to juxtapose the seriousness of Northam’s racially charged photograph with his push to legalise late-term abortion: ‘I would make the case that was an even worse offence than the picture.’ For this mild dissension, the (white) speaker was censured by a fellow (black) guest for seeking to ‘divert the conversation to an issue that’s more comfortable for you’; this after having swiftly been closed down by the show’s host Erin Burnett (at 07:00).

Intrigued by this exchange on CNN, Fox’s Tucker Carlson invited comment from Mark Steyn. Calling the clip ‘surreal’, Mark’s interpretation characteristically was cutting and comic: ‘Erin Burnett’s position is that she’s totally cool with partial birth abortion, she just doesn’t want a guy in blackface doing it. She’s got nothing against the Governor’s proposals for infanticide, she just doesn’t want him singing Mammy.’

Also, Steyn astutely identified a broader point: ‘This encapsulates the real problem with public discourse in our society: we always prefer the trivial over the difficult questions. And it’s precisely because the abortion issue is so huge and real that we would rather leap back to a 35-year-old yearbook picture and talk about that for the next two weeks.’

Warming to his twin themes that ‘the whole [blackface] controversy is a kind of minstrel show in itself’ and ‘abortion is the central sacrament of the Democrats these days’, Steyn asserted that ‘in New York City more black babies are aborted than born’ – astounding, but apparently true. ‘If you actually take the black community seriously, that is a huge question and much more relevant than some guy putting on a Klan hood for his stupid yearbook picture 35 years ago . . . This minstrel show routine where everybody gets annoyed about stupid ancient jokes or wants to tear down some 150-year-old statue is political minstrelsy which gets in the way of actual serious debate.’

Bravo, Mark. His caustic comparison of the blackface controversy to a minstrel show inevitably created a few ripples; however, writing on his website it clearly is a badge of honour for Mark Steyn that ‘the lads at Huffington Post didn’t care for the cut of my jib’.

Fortunately, some of us admire it very much indeed.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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