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Reviews | Youngkin appointees end up in racial controversies

Comment

While he has held appointed positions in the government of Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who took office this year with an eye on a possible White House bid, chose a mixed slate of conservatives from the movement and moderate pragmatists. A common denominator among his more controversial choices are backward and ignorant racial views.

Just this summer, one of the governor’s appointees, historian Ann Hunter McLean, resigned from the State Historic Resources Board after public scrutiny of her delusional argument that slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War – a view debunked by James McPherson, Dean of Civil War scholars, among many other eminent historians.

Another of Mr Youngkin’s picks, state health commissioner Colin Greene, was forced to express his contrition after an outcry sparked by his repeated comments denying the well-documented role of structural racism in gender disparities. matter of health.

More recently, the student advice at the University of Virginia call for the resignation of Bert Ellis, a Youngkin appointed to the U-Va Board of Visitors. who had attacked the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives – even going there with a razor blade to cut a sign on a student’s door that he considered offensive. It was before a report by U-Va. student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, which Mr. Ellis, as an undergraduate in the 1970s, fought to bring a renowned eugenicist on campus to spread his pseudoscientific views that black people are genetically inferior to white people.

It is undoubtedly possible to identify qualified conservatives for politically appointed boards and commissions whose beliefs are not tainted with racist odors. And in fact, Mr. Youngkin did; a number of his picks for the state’s nine-member board of education, for example, are solid experts with a variety of rich backgrounds.

For some reason, however, Mr. Youngkin seemed blind to the pitfalls of racially obtuse appointees, and they became a problem for him. Amid a controversy he could easily have avoided, the Governor was forced to release Ms McLean; publicly reprimand Dr. Greene; and, so far, duck pointed questions about Mr. Ellis.

Mr. Youngkin is not the first Virginia governor in recent memory to become entangled in a racially ignorant donnybrook of his own making. In 2010, Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell sparked a firestorm with a proclamation for Confederate History Month that omitted any mention of slavery while ordering “all Virginians” to salute their “shared” history. and sacrifices of the Confederacy. He later apologized for a statement that successfully airbrushed the 500,000 slaves who made up more than a quarter of the state’s pre-Civil War population, who cheered the Union and fled to her when they could. More recently, in 2019, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam first admitted, then denied, that he had posed in blackface for a photo in his medical school yearbook.

Upon taking office in January, Mr. Youngkin issued an executive order banning the teaching of “divisional” material in public schools across the state. Yet, through some of his own appointments, the governor himself has stoked divisions in Virginia.