Joe W. Dillard Jr., a 32-year-old former N.A.A.C.P. leader in Norfolk, agreed with the characterization of a generational split: “The younger generation wanted the instant gratification of him leaving. But they knew he wasn’t leaving, so either demand some things to get or we stand on the sidelines and cry over spilled milk.”
Ms. Price, who represents heavily Black areas including Hampton and Newport News, said that when she returned to her district, it was clear to her that Black constituents were more divided on the scandal than the national outcry might suggest. Some wanted Mr. Northam to go, she said, but many were also so familiar with racism in the old Confederate South that they did not find his possible actions disqualifying.
She also sensed opportunity.
“With folks that have privilege, it is usually when that privilege is put into jeopardy, or called out, that the learning begins,” she said.
“There were people calling me that have only spent a weekend at Virginia Beach, telling me what I should do for my constituents,” Ms. Price said. “But my lived experience shows me that I have to be strategic.”
A debt owed
If the Ralph Northam of today sounds like someone who has just completed a reading list of popular anti-racist literature, it’s because he has. He invokes the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the 1989 essay about white privilege. He says he was profoundly changed by the documentary “13th,” which focuses on racial bias in the criminal justice system.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but when I was in college, I wanted to go to medical school,” said Mr. Northam, who was a medical doctor before entering politics. “And I have been immersed since that time in biology and chemistry.” He went on: “Perhaps I should have spent more time looking into our history, but again, I didn’t. But I’m very interested in history now.”