Home Race Video: State Sen. Jennifer McClellan on “race ignorance” and “how you get...

Video: State Sen. Jennifer McClellan on “race ignorance” and “how you get a governor who doesn’t know that blackface is offensive”

Also: "2020 is extremely important, but 2019 is important...the majority is on the line [in Virginia]"


Yesterday, Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan – a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2021, by the way – was on a panel (“National Town Hall: 400 Years, Our Legacy, Our Possibilities“) at the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative conference in Washington, DC.  I thought her remarks (see video, below) were well worth passing along. Here’s a transcript (bolding added by me for emphasis), followed by the video. Great stuff!

  • “I know this is the Congressional Black Caucus and yes 2020 is extremely important, but 2019 is important. We have state elections in Virginia, in New Jersey…and in Virginia the majority is on the line. And if you don’t think every single vote matters, the majority of the House of Delegates in 2017 was decided by pulling a candidate’s name out of a bowl, because it came down to one seat, and that seat was tied.”
  • “And local elections matter. If you care about criminal justice reform, you don’t just care about what Congress is passing, you care about what your elected prosecutor, how he or she is deciding to use their discretion….Your state governments and your local governments are deciding what gets taught in school.”
  • “And you’re exactly right, we need to go back and have an honest conversation about our history across the board. But who decides what’s taught? Because I’m gonna tell you what, this backlash that we’re fighting right now, we have 22 African-American legislators in the Virginia General Assembly right now. Over a hundred years ago, we had 22 African-American legislators in a Constitutional Convention who decided Virginia is gonna have free public education for everybody. We had over a hundred African-American legislators elected who put that in place.  And then in 1902, when the White Southern power structure came back and then wrote a new constitution that disenfranchised black people, a lot of us didn’t learn that in school. I didn’t know there were 22 elected members of that Constitutional Convention until I chaired a commission 150 years later that happened to do research on  who was the first legislator in Virginia. Everybody thought it was Fergie Reid in 1968, because we don’t know our history.”
  • “And yes, racism and overt racism is dangerous. But you know what else is dangerous? Race ignorance, race ignorance. And that is how you get a governor who doesn’t know that blackface is offensive. And that is how you have people passing voter ID bills to require a a birth certificate. They don’t know in their own state that people born as late as 1940 who don’t have birth certificates because of decisions made in our history that we need to know about.”


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