by Susan Ahern
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Despite repeating State Senator Glen Sturtevant (R)’s racist attacks over and over in articles (and in print ads) with no context about WHERE Sturtevant is getting his money– the local paper covering Sturtevant’s election (the Richmond Times Dispatch) won’t be publishing this OpEd. I’ve written opinion pieces for that paper on many occasions, but they won’t print this one.
After I had several miscarriages, God and the universe blessed my husband and me with a 27-day-old, bi-racial baby girl though adoption. We were awe struck. With her gentle nature, tiny cupid-bow lips, bronze skin and black curly hair, we were smitten. We kept hearing, “You know people say every baby is beautiful. But your baby really is beautiful!”
Already the parents to two biological Caucasian sons, we thought we had parenting down pat. But holding this precious baby, barely five pounds, we felt a unique mission: We were both determined to promote and keep our daughter connected to her African-American culture.
So we’ve been outraged that State Senate candidate Glen Sturtevant (R-SD10) continuously launches racially tinged attacks on his Democratic opponent, Ghazala Hashmi, a woman of color. Hashmi is an Indian American and has worked for 30 years as a college administrator in Virginia.
In relentless ads featuring doctored images of Hashmi holding racist photos, and at a recent Virginia Public Media debate, Sturtevant attacked Hashmi for accepting $25,000 from Gov. Ralph Northam’s PAC, after calling for his resignation over racist pictures in his 35-year-old medical yearbook.
Somehow, Sturtevant’s outrage over racist yearbook photos never extended to Republican State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, who was a top editor on VMI’s 1968 yearbook full of racist photos, slurs and images. Adding to the blockbuster irony is that Sturtevant (over his almost four-year term) has accepted at least $365,250 from Tommy Norment’s PAC after Norment’s own role in shameful blackface yearbook photos came out.
And there’s more! The Republican State Leadership Committee (of which Norment is a prominent member) gave Sturtevant at least $481,957 over Sturtevant’s term (VPAP.org under Top Donors). It’s laughable that Sturtevant is incredulous over Hashmi taking $25,000 from Northam’s PAC.
Hashmi, like many Democrats, returned to supporting Northam after he pledged to address racial inequities by increasing affordable housing, working to reduce Black maternity mortality, improving funding for Black colleges and increasing investment in under-served communities.
Even before the scandal, Northam fought for Medicaid Expansion, which finally passed. According to Jasmine Leeward, (The Richmond Free Press, 3/10/2018), “almost half of uninsured Virginians who would benefit from Medicaid Expansion are people of color.” Every year Medicaid Expansion came up for a vote, Sturtevant voted no.
Before the yearbook scandal, Northam also championed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. Across America a total of 6 million workers would be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage were lifted to (even) $10.10 an hour, and 60 percent of the workers would be of color (Center for American Progress). Sturtevant helped doom a raise in the minimum wage in the last GA session.
Northam recently launched Opportunity Virginia, offering generous tax cuts to businesses developing projects that create jobs and provide services in disadvantaged communities.
In a February 2019 poll, 58 percent of African Americans said Northam should not leave office. Perhaps Black Virginians were not ardent supporters of the Governor’s. But they chose to abide Northam’s tenure, wrote Theodore Johnson (Brennan Center for Justice), as a reaction to Republican TV ads “meant to capitalize on the racial fear and resentment” in the (last) run up to the state’s gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns.
Johnson also wrote that:
“Compared to the sort of racially discriminatory laws and executive actions that could lie ahead (if Virginia’s three top executives resigned under controversy and a Republican House Speaker became governor), Black Virginians would much prefer a Democratic governor who wore blackface decades ago and expresses contrition today.”
Ironically, Sturtevant parades ads on TV featuring diversity. If he’s going to inject race in to the campaign, though, he ought to showcase his own voting record, which overwhelmingly has not supported people of color. For instance, Sturtevant voted against legislation proposing to “ban the box,” which forces people applying for jobs at state agencies to declare whether they’ve been convicted of a felony. Sturtevant also voted down a bill to lift Virginia’s felony grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500, helping maintain Virginia’s high-incarceration rate in the state.
In contrast, earlier this year, Northam announced he’d veto any additional mandatory-minimum sentencing bills, citing data showing these laws disproportionately hurt people of color. According to the Washington Post, there is significant racial disparity in sentencing, which has been increasing. (“Black Men Sentenced to (20%) More Time for Committing the Exact Same Crime as a White Person, Study Finds).
On gun safety, Sturtevant voted down a bill requiring lost and stolen guns be reported. This bill could help law enforcement trace guns that end up in crime scenes, holding citizens responsible for firearms trafficking in neighborhoods. Sturtevant voted against every gun background checks bill that has come before him and voted against limiting handgun purchases to one a month, which would have made trafficking guns into neighborhoods much tougher and more costly.
After the gut-wrenching death of 9-year-old girl, Markiya Dickson, who lived in Sturtevant’s district and was shot at a Richmond Park over Memorial Day, Sturtevant attended the Governor’s Emergency Session on guns and voted with every other Republican to shut down the session within 90 minutes, before even one public-safety gun bill could be voted on.
Sturtevant’s racist attack ads appear aimed at suppressing the Black vote for Hashmi. When people or politicians launch attacks, they are often trying to camouflage their own weaknesses. Indeed, Sturtevant’s voting record shows he has many shortcomings when it comes to supporting laws that address racial inequality.
Get ready for a lot more race-baiting TV Ads from Sturtevant in the run up to next Tuesday’s election, as he’s now armed with the latest cash infusion from GOP Leader Norment– who, I’ll remind you again, had his own yearbook scandal.
My baby girl is now a beautiful, sensitive teenager. We’re keeping the TV off in our house ’til Election Day.