A Thousand Words–and Then Some

Last week’s revelation that two statewide office holders in Virginia had taken pictures in blackface–and that a third had been accused by two women of sexual assault–rocked the Commonwealth, and had trickle-down effects here in Mississippi: Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves belonged to a fraternity that hosted an annual Old South Ball, complete with members dressed as confederate soldiers, and dates dressed as antebellum belles.

All five men involved in these incidents have had notable careers in public service. So here’s the question of the week: at what point, if any, does a record of service outweigh the sins of the past?

This entry was posted in Politics, Race in Mississippi. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A Thousand Words–and Then Some

  1. Samantha says:

    Personally, I believe that the sins of the past should have any effect on the present. Everybody makes mistakes – it is what makes us human. Character is determined by how you react to your mistakes. If you turn out to be a good person who does good actions then why should your past life and your past mistakes have any say on how capable you are of doing your job now? It shouldn’t, plain and simple. Also, some things that are considered to be disrespectful now wouldn’t have been at an earlier point in time. So, the severity of the sin needs to be considered in the period of time it took place. Things happen, and usually, people change for the better. Present actions should be the only contributing fact0rs to your present reputation.

  2. Victoria W says:

    I think I like what M said previously i.e. it all depends on how the “accusee’s” respond to their accusations. We all make mistakes, some bigger and badder than others, but to truly acknowledge your actions as problematic and show how you have made an effort to grow and learn from the mistakes of your past?? That shows significant signs of maturity and leadership. Tate Reeves, after being faced with backlash over his past actions in a racist fraternity, chose to not apologize for his affiliation with problematic students and actions, but to take a defensive stance, turning it back around on the liberals’ attempts to hurt his reputation to further their agenda. He reinforces his opinion that what he does /now is what matters, not the past. (https://mississippitoday.org/2019/02/12/tate-reeves-speaks-on-blackface-racism-and-his-confederate-group-associations/) And I have to say, I don’t agree with this at all. I understand that politicians are in a tough spot. No matter what they say or do, they can’t please everyone, and someone is always going to nitpick their words and get offended, but from my view, Reeves is running away from his past because he thinks that any acknowledgement of past mistakes will immediately condemn him. But I think that when people in power try to /hide their skeletons of the past and then refuse to own up to them when the light is shed onto them? That’s the problem. People grow and change, and as a society we need to work on acknowledging that just because someone does something problematic, shouldn’t mean that they’re immediately cancelled. Their response and their acknowledgement of their past failures in a way that shines light on how they have /learned and are /better now is what is important.

  3. M says:

    A person’s reaction to their behavior shows their true feelings today. I feel that people who attempt to cover up their wrongdoings are people who are not truly sorry for their actions. If a person comes forward after and accusation and confesses, it shows true acceptance that what they have done was wrong; however, a person who denies even after evidence has been shown is somebody who has not acknowledged their wrong doings. If a person admits a problematic past, takes full responsibility for their mistake, and apologizes for said mistakes, I believe the past is the past. Nobody is perfect, and everybody has done something they regretted. These pasts (excluding serious crimes) should be forgiven and should not infringe on somebody’s ability to grow and evolve.

  4. C says:

    I don’t know that the sins of your past will ever be overseen based on your public contributions or standing. Once you have done something, it is done. It will always have consequences, even if they are not always what one feels they should be. Although, some things may be seen as unimportant in the present (highly dependent on the act in question) because the person has changed in their morals and actions and have learned from his/her/their experiences. You can never truly make the past go away, but I think if you show a change in who you are, then some sins of your past may go without further punishment. Although, again I state: this all depends on the act in question and the effect it has on others.

  5. Catherine Li says:

    I will say the situation in some cases was blown out of proportion, but I don’t want a person representing me who has committed horrible acts such as blackface or other racist acts. I believe that until the allegations are 100% proven true, their political careers should not be completely bashed, and their personal lives should not be ruined. I expect the leaders representing me in the case to address the situation and either admit to it or give sufficient evidence to prove themselves innocent. Furthermore, if they did commit the crime, they should be judged also on how much they have genuinely changed morally since then. If they see the wrong in their actions and take an active role in bettering themselves in their position and community, I believe there should be some forgiveness. However, I do understand if people in the community under the leader changes their opinion and becomes skeptical. All people should be held accountable for their actions; however, times change and everyone makes mistakes.

  6. KT says:

    I keep coming back to this post, never able to form a good argument or coherent thoughts. I always end up contradicting myself. Io have participated in something like shows ignorance, and that’s not something we should have in our government (not to say we don’t, but we shouldn’t). Humanitarian work helps with the public image, but their sins should not be over looked.

  7. Cameron Thomas says:

    Well, I must evaluate the question first. It depends on the level of service you’re talking about. Yes, crimes like sexual assault are inexcusable, but, other than these guys cases, I feel as if sometimes society takes things out of proportion. People allow the corrupted media to persuade their opinions. If you say or do one immoral thing, you’re automatically labeled. It doesn’t even have to be as extreme as sexual assault; it could be as simple as yawning during an important speech. The media will find a way to blow it up, and everyone will believe you were being disrespectful when you really were just tired. Rumors about Michael Jackson sleeping with children was disturbing (I personally do not know whether it was true or not), but they didn’t take away the fact the he is and always will be the king of pop because his involvement in the music industry was too monumental to just let that go away. We’re so quick to put these labels on people, and sometimes we forget that the good sometimes outweighs the bad. If we stop being so sensitive to everything and start viewing situations with objectivity, then we will be able to judge if something is just or unjust.

  8. random says:

    I think it depends on what type of sin that person does. If a veteran is smoking illegal drugs, it might be that is the only way to help with their PTSD. I’m not saying that I support buying illegal drugs, but I would have more sympathy towards that type of case. However, if that same veteran kills someone or sexually assaults someone, then that is different because they are harming someone else. Although public service can gain a person leniency, they should still be punished.

  9. Bubba says:

    Just because one has x amount of public service completed does not mean that they are the perfect, ideal employee of the year. Although some people do what they do for the sake of religion, they should think beforehand whether or not what they do seems wrong to the general public. Sins can also vary from stealing candy to robbing a bank. Depending on what someone did, their record of service could play a role in their sins. Would it seem ridiculous sentencing someone 10 years of prison for stealing a lollipop? Or rather one million dollars from the bank? Personally, even if public records play a part, it does not play a big role. When people hear of an unethical action someone did, they usually do not ask what they do for a living. Sinful actions should just be based on the degree of the sin.

  10. Emma G Jones says:

    I believe that those accused of blackface should be shown mercy if they can illustrate that their ideas, beliefs, and capacity for empathy have grown and evolved, but if a pattern of offensive behavior can be established, it is indicative of the presence of hate, prejudice and insensitivity towards the individuals that these public service members are supposed to serve. Prevalence of this behavior also illustrates an incredible amount of ignorance, and the existence of the previously mentioned characteristics compounded with such a high level of ignorance is not desirable in those that are supposed to be able to process information and make decisions that affect our lives and those that we care about. Although the men accused of blackface all have notable careers in public service and have accomplished things, if this is truly who they are, they should not be excused just because of these accomplishments. Wrong is wrong.

    The man accused of sexual assault should be investigated, and if the findings are conclusive and support the women’s claims, then no amount or type of public service should excuse those devastating transgressions. Unfortunately, the likelihood of these claims being investigated is not very high, and the probability that a definitive conclusion will be reached, is even less likely. Once again, a pattern of behavior would need to be established. Research shows that sexual offenders often have multiple victims. If more victims come forward and stories can be corroborated, this man should not be excused for destroying people’s lives.

  11. Samaria Swims says:

    In my opinion, it should depend on what kind of sin the person has done. People change overtime because their not the same person they were ten or fifteen years ago. However, if a person was involved in any kind of sexual assault there is no amount of service that can outweigh this. If someone was involved in something racists that’s a different thing because people who are young make dumb choices, but when they grow up to be adults they change their ways.

  12. Alexandra says:

    No one is perfect. Each individual – well-known and unknown – is entitled to personal beliefs, traditions, and opinions which are important for establishing identity. However, performing purposeful, offensive behavior in the name of tradition is not acceptable. Plus, blatant rituals done in public are even worse. We, as Americans, have the freedoms to do basically anything under the law, so the line is drawn when laws are broken. Sexual assault is illegal but blackface parties, sadly, are not.

  13. Linda Arnoldus says:

    I don’t want racist, sexist, or homophobic people representing me in government. That being said, I understand that we are all human and that people grow. A racist comment taken out of context or from the person you were 2 years ago does not always reflect who you are today. The question of whether or not your service can outweigh your sins is a tricky one. It is not so much about the amount of service but rather the intention behind it. In the case of blackface, I would hope that the “service” would include 1) never wearing black face again 2) a public apology 3) criticizing others who wear blackface. However, something so serious as sexual assault is something that I would put into the laws hands. Time in prison would be the only service that could make that right, even if the person had changed. It greatly depends on the action of the person.

  14. B says:

    Situations are different for everyone. Being a rapist or sexual assault is not something that is moved on from quickly, especially to women who have experienced situations like this. Being racist is also something that is hard to swallow for many because so many have been suppressed because of their race. However, a racist person is more easily forgiven when they show that they have grown and that they don’t think the way they did. When they do service and people see they aren’t targeting or stereotyping, that when people start to forgive and pardon them. So with the people that were immature racist college boys, if they show growth, they should be pardoned. But, for the sexual assault case, this should be put forth a trial.

  15. Guillermo says:

    Mercy should be applied to people who committed their sins in a time far prior, as then standards were different. This is because the fault lies not only to them but their parents. We cannot accuse someone if their parents raised them a certain way. For example, if a child was raised by parents who told them it was okay to yell at people when they were angry, they would accustom to it. This creates the problem that the child’s worldview and our societal viewpoint do not intersect. The way to correct this is to provide punishment for the offender but not a permanent punishment.

    Repeat offenses, however, are a different story. If someone makes a racist remark because they were raised in a household where it was fine (say, an old white conservative household), they might be pardoned because their parents raised them to think this way. If they continue making racist remarks, there should be a more harsh punishment.

    However, if a man has met with members of supremacy groups and dislikes a minority to the point of creating a physical obstacle between him and them, he might become president.

  16. Nathan Lee says:

    Judgement greatly varies on the severity of the sin and the services of the sinner. For example, if two people had both committed a wrongdoing, the person with better deeds would not be as disliked. However, everyone has different ideas and knowledge about elected officials. In the scenario where a portion of people do not know of an official’s wrongdoings, those people will be more likely to vote for them. Serious crimes should definitely outweigh any record of service, but questionable actions will not seriously affect most reputations if they have done good service.

  17. t says:

    For certain circumstances, a record of service could outweigh the sins of the past. The two statewide office holders in Virginia took a picture in blackface while they were in college. Although the images we offensive, they were young. The men publicly apologized for the incident. They pictures will continue to surface throughout their career, but they acknowledge that what their actions were unjust. Same goes for the Lieutenant Governor, Tate Reeves. He participated in the Old South Ball in COLLEGE. He dressed as a confederate soldier in COLLEGE. People do things in college as a spur of the moment. However, the sexual assault case should not be swept under the rug. You can’t apologize for something so serious and expect everything to be ok, no matter when it happened.

  18. W says:

    I believe that the sexual assault is inexcusable. Why would I wish for someone like that to represent me in office. While I understand that politicians are not saints, no one is, I do not believe that these cases should be treated lightly. I do agree with some of the previous statements of how the men who were found wearing blackface should be excused. It was college, and it was a different time. Wearing blackface was not considered bad by white people, but as over time, we as Americans have begun to educate ourselves, it is clear that the decision to wear the blackface was a wrong one. If the picture had been taken last week, this would be an entirely different discussion. I believe that we as Americans do, however, NEED to educate ourselves before elections. We need to realize who we are dealing with and making uninformed political decisions is not the way to better ourselves and to better our country.

  19. Khytavia Fleming says:

    I believe most sins can be forgiven through service. However, there are some sins like sexual assult, murder, etc that I don’t think no amount of service can make the sin less worse. I honestly don’t care that one of the office holders in Virgina wore blackface. He was in college. Big whoop. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the only one wearing blackface, and he won’t be the last. College is the time where you make stupid decisions and learn from them. Now, if people don’t want individuals like these in office, then they need to do their research.

  20. Bertha Mireles says:

    Sexual assault and racist actions in the pasts of government officials has sadly become more and more common. I would not want people representing my state who have committed an atrocity like sexual assault or showed racist tendencies. Perhaps if enough time has passed since these events and the officials have had great careers of public service, I would be open to a change of mind. However, one must consider the legitimacy of the accusations of sexual assault as well. With no evidence, it is up to the victim’s word solely.

  21. X says:

    In this world, there is such a thing called a business life and a personal life. As long as the two remain separate and independent, it is fine to disregard the sins of the past if it does not affect the decisions made in the present, and in turn, affect the citizens. It is good that these incidents were discovered, but like every other political being, it rarely affects their position (@ President Trump). I think the sins in the past should, at the very least, taken into consideration before making a decision to put the people in a place of power. In this case, the sins were uncovered after they were elected; to give the people an accurate representation of who exactly they are voting for, more research and background digging should be done.

    • B says:

      I’m not sure that I agree with you in your argument. It seems as though you’re arguing that things like sexual assault and racism is something that should be separate from the “business life” of a politician. Both of these things show how a person thinks. It shows a lack of respect for others. If we as citizens give disrespectful people power, it normalizes these horrific activities. A politicians personal life should be more available. If they have something to hide, they probably shouldn’t be elected.

    • T says:

      I disagree with the concept of separating a business life and a personal life. Like B said, if there’s something to hide, then they probably know the people will less likely vote for them if discovered. There’s an extent to which that idea can be taken. While some personal things can be kept out of the public eye, such as enjoying a family dinner out or attending a friend’s wedding, it is unfair to the people for one to hide who they truly are. Sometimes, no matter how great a businessman or woman you are, it comes down to who you are as a person and where your morals lie.

      Unfortunately, politics is kinda like that today, though. When campaigning, they tell you what you want to hear and make you believe this is what they will make happen. But, when they actually get into office, you realize they had different or more extreme intentions. This is unfair because it’s not the same person you voted for and wanted to represent you.

  22. Erin says:

    The men who made mistakes in college could be excused for their mistakes, because college kids don’t usually make all of the best decisions. Being in college doesn’t pardon bad things that people do, but if the men apologize, I think they will be alright. The man who did the sexual assualt should not be pardoned. Sexually assualt is not something that can just be brushed away because of their public service record, or something that can be simply apologized for. I think before officials are elected, voters should look for information about the person they are voting for.

  23. Alyssa says:

    Three of these men should be pardoned, simply because this was their lack of judgement when they were in college. They have grown and chances are they have grown out of the mindset that they were in at that time. These are things that were deliberately brought up for people to hate on these politicians and to bring them shame. However, the man involved in the sexual assault cases should be proven guilty or innocent before public judgement is passed. If he is found guilty then he should be treated just as any other sex offender would. But until then, this should be treated as something spread for others to hate him.

  24. Xavier Lucas-Cooper says:

    If the wrongdoings of these statewide office holders are being brought to light now, that is good. However, the blame falls on the population of the state for not doing thorough research on the people that were elected. Yes, voters could have known about the racism and sexual assault and still voted for them, but people getting mad about the exposure can only be warranted to a certain degree. In my opinion, I unhappily admit that the record of service does outweigh the sins of the past. I say this due to the fact that the elected official may have changed their ways since the incidents. On the other hand, I do think that voters should take the information that was released and use that to make informed decisions on the next election dates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *