Think racial tension is dead and buried in the Old Dominion?
On Friday, seven Senators — five of them black and all Democrats — walked out of the chamber in Richmond after Republicans chose the final day of Black History Month to introduce a resolution honoring the life and public service of former U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd Jr., a long-time segregationist who died last year at age 98.
Del. Mark Berg, a Republican from Fredrick, offered the resolution at the end of a month dedicated to speeches honoring the accomplishments of African-Americans.
Some questioned what they considered the questionable timing of the resolution honoring a politician who never publicly apologized or repented for his public views that supported racial segregation and ones that many considered racist.
Others considered such a resolution improper at any time.
“I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to honor to honor a segregationist who has not repented from is or her previous views,” said Sen. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Henrico County and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. “I don’t care what month it is.”
Besides McEachin, those who walked out on the resolution included Senators Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, Barbara Favola of Arlington, Kenny Alexander of Norfolk, Mamie Locke of Hampton, Louise Lucas of Portsmouth and Henry Marsh of Richmond.
In Virginia, members of the General Assembly have pulled such stunts before. Two years ago, a group of Republican delegates marched off the floor rather than cast a vote in favor of the nomination of General District Judge Tracy Thorne-Begand — the Old Dominion’s first openly-gay judge to win selection by the General Assembly.
Race, it appears, is not the only form of tension to still raise its ugly head in the halls of power in the Old Dominion.