COLUMN: Ralph Northam should step down as governor of Virginia


Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with his wife Pam at his side, said at a news conference Feb. 2 in the Executive Mansion that he is not the person in the racist photo in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, and he will not resign.  Tribune News Service Buy Photos

A photograph of Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page recently emerged, showing photos of Northam alongside another image of two people, one wearing blackface and the other dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe. 

Northam announced he would not step down on Saturday. He denied wearing blackface in the photos that went viral, but admitted to wearing blackface on another occasion. 

Northam’s association with this picture shows a gross lack of judgment, integrity and competence and should disqualify him from continuing to lead the state of Virginia. 

He was either dressed in blackface (again), dressed as a Klansman or somehow allowed a racist picture to be forever associated with his medical school yearbook page. 

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has already called for Northam to resign. Northam’s immediate predecessor, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, along with Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., also former governors of Virginia, have all called on Northam step down. 

Virginia has a deep and troubled history with race. Richmond, the state’s capital, was also the seat of the Confederate States of America. In 2017, white nationalists staged violent protests against the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

After the image was released, former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, D-Va., tweeted about the “duality of Virginia” — the birthplace of American democracy and American slavery. 

Donte Tanner, a Democratic Virginia state legislator, said “racism in Virginia didn’t begin with Governor Northam’s picture and it won’t end there.” Democratic Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., issued a joint statement saying that the image of Northam evokes Virginia’s “painful past” and the only way to “overcome that history” would be if the Governor stepped aside.  

Northam allowed his name to be associated with this picture. He admittedly donned blackface at one point in his life. That is inexcusable, especially considering he is the governor of a state that at one point served as the epicenter of the Confederacy. 

If Northam does not resign, it will send a clear message that past acts of racism during a “different time” can be excused, that those who wear blackface or dress as a Klansman or associate with such actions can still go on to be the governor. 

Ralph Northam must resign. His admitted use of blackface and association with this yearbook picture makes him unfit for office and unable to adequately serve the Virginians he was elected to lead.

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