On Feb. 1 photographs surfaced of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook, which appears to show the Democratic governor and another man, one wearing blackface and the other in a KKK white robe.
The photo is very offensive, and since the photo’s rise to national attention, Northam issued a bizarre apology and then later retracted it, which makes all of this worse.
When the photograph first surfaced, Northam apologized and acknowledged that it was him in the photograph. But by the next day, Northam retracted his apology and said the only reason he had acknowledged that it was him in the photograph was because he wanted to, “take credit for recognizing that this was a horrific photo that was on my page with my name on it.”
According to Northam, after talking to family and friends about the photograph, he then decided to retract his statement because he came to the conclusion that the man in the photo was not him. Northam then admitted later that he had darkened his face on another occasion with shoe polish in order to look more like Michael Jackson.
As I’m sitting here writing this story, I can only roll my eyes at all of Northam’s statements. With every statement, Northam keeps digging his hole deeper and deeper, proving that he should resign. Throughout Northam’s conference, he basically blew off the entire incident and insisted that blackface was just something people did at the time. While I was watching Northam’s conference, I found myself cringing at statements like “I’ve had as much exposure to people of color as anybody.”
Just because Northam has had “exposure” does not make his actions better and does not mean he is not racist or ignorant. This might not be a big deal to Northam, but it is a big deal to me.
Northam might have convinced himself that he is not the man in the photographs, but he has not convinced many others.
Northam can no longer play the victim or play innocent. The photograph in question was taken in 1984 and even back then, people knew how offensive and hurtful blackface is and the negative influence of the KKK.
We should not turn a blind eye to Northam’s racism, especially when he is in a position to make life-changing decisions for black people, the same people he knowingly mocked in those photographs. The residents of Virginia and supporters of the Democratic Party need to hold Northam accountable for his actions and he needs to resign.
Even if the photographs are not Northam, as he claims, the way he has handled this entire scandal and the way he has attempted to justify using blackface is a clear indication to me that he should not be the governor of Virginia. It has been embarrassing to hear Northam say things like “I have a lot of African-American friends,” a standard answer for all white people accused of racism.
According to Northam, he never even looked at the yearbook photo before issuing an apology on Friday and then recanting his apology the following day. This is because he knew that he had been in blackface before.
Northam needs to be held accountable for his actions and he should resign. His openly racist history and denial has shown his lack of empathy for the very people he from whom he campaigned to win votes. If Northam and other openly racist politicians aren’t held accountable, we as a country are sending a message that racism is ok.