Racism Recorded

Like Gov. Ralph Northam’s racial insensitivity in Virginia, an elected official in upstate New York was recently caught using slurs. Mark McGrath resigned from the Troy City Council on Monday, after a three-year-old voice-mail message that contained two highly offensive anti-black terms was reported in The Albany Times-Union. 

Mr. McGrath, a six-term Conservative Party member, did not apologize. Instead, he acted the part of a victim, saying, “It’s hard for us to fathom what kind of person would hang on to a voice mail I clearly didn’t know existed just to release it to the press more than three years later in an effort to hurt me and my reputation.” 

When he was first contacted by The Times-Union, he denied the recorded voice was his and refused to step down. Four days later, as pressure increased within the City Council and elsewhere in Troy, he admitted the voice was his and left office.

Mr. Northam first said he was one of two people on his page in a 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, one in blackface, the other in a Ku Klux Klan hood, then changed his story, saying he had once darkened his face to dress as the late pop singer Michael Jackson for a Halloween party, as if somehow that was okay. Neither explanation should have been acceptable even in the 1980s. 

It is unfathomable that when slurs of this kind come to light any politician would expect to stay on in his or her elected post any longer than a minute. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said this week, Mr. Northam admitted to enough involvement with racial stereotypes to disqualify himself as governor. That he remained in office as of yesterday shows there is still very far to go before racism is truly a thing of the past.