My Governor Is Black

Sam McKenzie Jr.
11 min readJan 30, 2023

“Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols. The power embedded in the word nigger is also symbolic. Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates, My President Was Black

Back in September of last year, I interviewed for a position in state government under the Hogan administration. When I made my way to the waiting area, I looked up and saw a picture of the then-current Governor Larry Hogan, and Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.

As I stood there looking at his photo in a state building, I wondered if I could work in his administration given my political views. As you would expect, Hogan’s photo was slightly higher up, and Rutherford’s was beneath Hogan’s.

We’ve seen that same photo arrangement a few times in Maryland’s history — a white governor and a Black lieutenant governor. We saw it with Ehrlich and Steele, and we saw it with O’Malley and Brown. It’s been a winning combo for Democrats and Republicans alike in Maryland.

That photo arrangement is also a picture of a racist and gendered hierarchy in Maryland.