Message To Virginia's Racist Governor Northam: Just Resign Already!

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The "Coon man." Photo: CNN screenshot.

Members of the Democratic Party are correctly calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam over a racist picture which has surfaced from his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

In the odiously offensive picture, Northam is seen wearing blackface, next to another man wearing a KKK robe—with a white hood. Governor Northam was apparently also known, at least by some, as “Coonman.” On Saturday, Northam contradicted his earlier Friday comments when he'd admitted to the offense and apologized. His excuses Saturday only made a bad situation worse—because he was not believable.

Since racism of any kind cannot be condoned, Governor Northam needs to resign.

Amid growing calls from all segments of the Democratic Party for his resignation Northam said Saturday he would not step down. He now claims he isn’t the one in the photo. The governor is now saying classmates told him some of the yearbook pictures were apparently mixed-up with the picture he thought was him on Friday.

The problematic question for Governor Northam here is: why did he initially think it was possible that he was the one painted up in blackface—standing next to a hooded White man wearing KKK robes? Is he saying he's a racist and that he did take such pictures but just not the one in the yearbook?

At his Saturday afternoon press conference Northam characterized himself as a “man of honor.” He claimed Friday was the “first time” he saw the offensive photos, supposedly because he “never bought the yearbook.” Assuming that were true, are we to really believe Northam never saw this blackface picture on his yearbook’s page because he didn’t buy it?

Nobody told him about this blackface KKK picture—ever? What a terrible liar.

Governor Northam said because the offensive photo was on his yearbook page he decided to quickly apologize for the “content of the page.” The governor declared “I am not the person” and “it’s not me” in the picture. He also said his nickname was “goose,” not “Coonman,” which he said only two people called him—though he expressed ignorance as to why they did so.

Governor Northam’s revised response Saturday undercuts his Friday apology—where he admitted he was the student in the picture wearing blackface. Governor Northam destroyed any appearance he was taking responsibility for his hideous conduct in 1984 by his conflicting comments Saturday, after first apologizing.

On Friday the governor said, “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.” Why did Governor Northam make such an admission on Friday, since he now tells us he is “not the person” in the photo?

On Saturday, the governor said he was “very certain today, not so yesterday” that he wasn’t the person in the photo. Why wasn’t he so “certain” that he never wore blackface—next to someone wearing Klan robes—on Friday? Why was he so confused in entertaining the possibility that it might be him in this racist picture?

Why did Governor Northam have to “take time to make sure it’s not me,” as he said Saturday?

In a video clip, released soon after his Friday admission, Northam said “That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect the person I am today or the way that I conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I am deeply sorry."

In saying he is no longer like the blackface “photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents,” Governor Northam has already admitted who he, at best, was—someone who would dress in racist blackface. A rabid racist. At one point, in the press conference, Northam characterized the racism ingrained in the photo as “commonplace” at the time.

The governor insinuated he only thought it may’ve been him, in this picture, with someone wearing Klan regalia, because: he had, sometime the same year, dressed in blackface, in a Michael Jackson contest he won—where he supposedly did the moonwalk. Since this was 1984, why would a White person need to dress in blackface to look like Michael Jackson?

Governor Northam is deluding himself if he thinks he can continue to govern. Apologies aside, many in the Democratic Party are calling for the governor to resign, among them Representative A. Donald McEachin from Richmond. “In light of that stain on our Commonwealth and the work that still needs to be done, I ask the governor to step aside,” said McEachin. “While I acknowledge his efforts on behalf of all Virginians and the good he has done as a senator, as our lieutenant governor and now as governor, Virginians have too much to overcome and too much healing yet in front of us.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus initially characterized the photo of Governor Northam as "disgusting, reprehensible and offensive." By Friday evening, the Caucus, which met with Northam, released a statement saying, “It is clear he can no longer effectively serve as governor.”

Hypocritical Republicans have been denouncing Governor Northam’s racism—while they give Donald Trump’s racism a pass. Republicans have no credibility on this issue—so they should shut up.

However, the Democratic Party needs to do more to fight racism within their ranks—and within political policy. Democrats have not done nearly enough to stop the scourge of institutional racism that negatively impacts Black Americans in all aspect of political life. Voter suppression and racial policing are two such issues screaming for immediate redress.

That important work can’t be done by Democrats like Governor Northam. For the good of the Democratic Party Governor Northam, who says he’s a “man of honor,” must do the honorable thing: resign immediately.

 

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