This morning, I woke up to more news about fiery riots in cities across America. My heart sank as I looked at the pictures and videos of people protesting George Floyd’s horrifying death at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with whom Floyd used to work a security detail at a Minneapolis night club. In the wake of Floyd’s death by cop, Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter, and his wife, Kellie Chauvin, has filed for divorce.
As I scrolled past that news, I noticed an item about Jerry Falwell, Jr., conservative Christian president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and big time Trump supporter. It’s no secret that Falwell is no fan of liberals, and he’s not a fan of being ordered to wear a face mask. To protest Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s order that everyone wear a mask in public, Mr. Falwell has decided to turn his into a political statement. He has a mask that has a picture of Northam’s infamous blackface yearbook photo on it and shared it on Twitter.
A black professor who taught online for Liberty University has already resigned over Falwell’s racist tweets. Dr. Christopher House, who began teaching for Liberty University in the fall of 2019, is an associate professor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, and is also a pastor. Dr. House was alerted to Falwell’s tweets by a friend and cited two of them as he immediately resigned his affiliation with Liberty University.
Frankly, coming from Virginia myself, I’m surprised that anyone holds Liberty in esteem. When I was a teenager looking at colleges, I would not have considered Liberty, even if I had been religious enough to want to attend a Christian college. Back then, it was not considered a very prestigious school. However, over the past few decades, the school has grown by leaps and bounds, apparently mostly due to its online programs. When I was in graduate school, I knew that online and distance learning were going to be waves of the future, even as some of my professors were against it. My graduate school, the University of South Carolina, was an early pioneer in distance education. Looks like Liberty has cashed in on online education and that’s why it has so much power today. When I was in college, the idea of a professor from Ithaca College could teach remotely to students in Virginia was like something out of a science fiction novel.
But anyway… while I completely understand why so many people in Virginia are chafing at being required to wear face masks, I think Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s decision to provoke more of a racial divide is just reprehensible and disgusting. Now, especially, is NOT the time to race bait anyone. Not while the country is going crazy with riots over the unjustified killing of a black man by a white former cop. It is shocking to me that Jerry Falwell, Jr. considers himself a Christian with this type of behavior. This is definitely NOT Christlike behavior, nor is it appropriate leadership. As Dr. House says, Jerry Falwell, Jr. should repent.
Falwell says that the masks are not meant to be racist. He says he created them as a means of reminding people of who Northam is– that he’s a racist. Perhaps Governor Northam was guilty of racist behavior at one time, but people can evolve and change. I don’t think the Northam of the mid 1980s is the same Northam of 2020. It would be a sad world indeed if people couldn’t learn from their mistakes. Indeed, shouldn’t Falwell, as president of a Christian university, be championing the idea of learning and growing instead of being stuck on something from the past? Christians, in particular, should be open to the possibility that people can grow and be better than they once were. It’s one thing when a person is an asshole and continues to be an asshole. It’s quite another when a person was an asshole and makes an effort not to be one in the future.
It’s true that Governor Northam dressed up in blackface when he was in medical school, back in the mid 1980s. It was wrong of Northam to do that, although in the 80s, the culture was not nearly as sensitive to racism as it is today. Northam has evolved beyond his racist actions of the 80s and done a lot of good for the people of Virginia. My former shrink, a doctorate level clinical psychologist, knows Governor Northam personally and has done work with him on a professional basis, as Northam was a pediatric neurologist before he got into politics. He says Northam is an exemplary man and an excellent physician, despite making a poor choice to wear blackface in the 1980s. Seems to me that being a good Christian includes being forgiving and charitable to others.
It surprises me that Jerry Falwell, Jr. would fault Governor Northam for being politically incorrect by dressing in blackface. Falwell has said he appreciated our feckless dickheaded POTUS because he’s not politically correct. So… while I can understand why so many people hate the face masks and I can see why people are upset with Northam for being caught without one on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, I also think that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a terrible example of a “Christian”. He should be ashamed of himself, although I think that much like Trump, Falwell has no shame. Jesus would never tweet this shit, Jerry. Grow up and be a leader.