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Virginia Commission Calls for Repeal of ‘Explicitly Racist’ and ‘Segregationist’ Laws

Opponents of a white nationalist-led rally hold a Black Lives Matter flag in downtown Washington, D.C., August 12, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

A Virginia state commission released a report Thursday calling for the official repeal of “deeply troubling” state laws still on the books that contain “explicitly racist language and segregationist policies.”

The Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law published a lengthy report saying that the outdated laws should not “remain enshrined in law” despite no longer being in effect.

“The commission believes that such vestiges of Virginia’s segregationist past should no longer have official status,” the report states. “The devastating long-term social, economic, and political impact of legalized segregation in Virginia continues to plague people of color today.”

While many of the laws the commission cited have been nullified by courts, such as the ban on interracial marriage in the “Act to Preserve Racial Integrity,” the commission warned that they could become relevant again with another court ruling.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no child shall be required to enroll in or attend any school wherein both white and colored children are enrolled,” a 1956 law continues to read.

Democratic governor Ralph Northam spearheaded the commission in June to identify state laws that “were intended to or could have the effect of promoting or enabling racial discrimination or inequity.” The governor said he would focus on promoting racial equality for the rest of his term after weathering a scandal earlier this year over a racist yearbook photo depicting one person in blackface and another in a KKK outfit.

Northam pledged in a statement Thursday to repeal all racially discriminatory language in Virginia law.

“If we are going to move forward as a Commonwealth, we must take an honest look at our past,” the governor said. “We know that racial discrimination is rooted in many of the laws that have governed our Commonwealth—today represents an important step towards building a more equal, just, and inclusive Virginia.”

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