A Northam-Smollett America

Armstrong Williams | 4/11/2019, 12:31 p.m.
February was a good, albeit controversial, month for discussions about race in this country.
Armstrong Williams

When examined separately from each other, the stories of Northam and Smollett may simply be two different and isolated examples of race and racism. Yet a closer look reveals how similar these two events are. At their core, they both represent a mob-style reaction to accusation. We’ve come to the point in America where everything can be lost and destroyed in a media-fueled frenzy of hatred. Sometimes, as in Smollett’s case, the accusers can be caught and their lies exposed. Sometimes, those who falsely accuse and prosecute are found to have been the true criminals. Yet, even if the truth comes out in time—or in a court of law—those who find themselves attacked in the media suffer greatly. They have to endure the destruction of their reputations and deal with hardship at home as their family reels from relentless media harassment, and—whether they must pay to defend themselves in a court of law or merely in the court of public opinion—they are often stung with a financial cost that can exceed millions of dollars.

Where do we turn for help—and for hope? I think we need to turn to people who have gained the wisdom that can sometimes come only from suffering. Consider, for example, how former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is now serving us all. McDonnell’s story, in case you don’t remember it, represents one of the true miscarriages of justice in recent American political history. Hounded by the media and opposition politicians and prosecutors, McDonnell was charged with felonies on flimsy evidence and false reasoning. He was convicted. His family was put through years of media harassment and stung with millions of dollars in debt. Ultimately, McDonnell’s case made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, where they found—unanimously—that McDonnell was innocent. Yes, you read that right. A governor was charged, convicted, harassed and humiliated for years, and he was innocent all along. Imagine how you or your family would feel in a case like that? Well, McDonnell could have engaged in his own pity party and portrayed himself as yet another victim of politics. Instead, today, he’s leading a much-needed honest and heartfelt conversation on race and reconciliation. Few Americans have suffered what McDonnell did, but perhaps we can all take from his example. We all have within us the power to help others heal if, despite the pain of the past, we have the courage to engage in honest conversation.