Beleaguered Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) held a press conference this afternoon to address racist photos exposed yesterday from both his medical school yearbook, and racist nicknames from his college yearbook. Despite calls from nearly every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, the NAACP, the Democratic Party of Virginia, and the Congressional Black Caucus, Northam said he would not resign, insisting it was not him in the photo while at the same time conceding very few people will believe that claim. He claims he never purchased the yearbook, and is now waiting for a copy of it to be sent to him.
I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable. When my staff showed me the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time. I never purchased the yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page. When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo. I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting. It is offensive. It is racist. It was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place. I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it.
His main explanation for being certain it was not him in the photo was the fact that he did in fact darken his face in a different incident that same year, and he remembers that incident vividly. It was for a dance contest, and he was dressing as Michael Jackson. He claimed because that particular memory is so vivid, he really doesn't believe he was in this picture since he doesn't remember it. Yet, he had to study it carefully to make sure it wasn't him. He had to ask friends to study it carefully to make sure it wasn't him. And he was inclined to do Blackface by his own admission, since he did, indeed, try to do Blackface (but kinda failed, because, hey, shoe-polish is a BEAR to remove, y'all!)
Anyhow, he won't ask for forgiveness...he knows he won't get it. He just wants the chance to show everyone he has changed. He wants the chance to EARN forgiveness.
I have so many questions.
Why didn't Gillespie's team find it during the campaign?
If they did, why didn't they expose it? Is it because they didn't think it would take Northam down? And what does that say about how they perceive the Virginia electorate?
Why didn't the Northam team find it during the campaign? They do their own oppo research on themselves.
Why, during the campaign, didn't he and his oppo team address the issue of his racist nickname (he did a piss-poor job of addressing THAT at the press conference — "You'd have to ask the people who gave me that nickname...I don't know..") and the Michael Jackson Blackface? He says he remembers THAT blackface incident vividly! Did he think THAT incident would never be discovered once he was elected?
Why, why can't white people own up to their own racism? Why not take the path of least resistance and most honesty, while they're running, and they know people are digging through their pasts? It is so much easier and more respectful of the electorate to get out ahead of your past misdeeds. Let me take a stab at this.
"I'm Ralph Northam. I'm white. That has given me inevitable privilege, and made it harder for me to see the racism with which I've been raised. That privilege makes it harder for me to see institutional racism in a country that has racism woven throughout the tapestry of its history. It is inevitable I have internalized racism, and have behaved in harmful, racist ways. Not only can I point to examples of them, I'm sure others will be able to point to them, too. For example, in 1984 I used Blackface when I was portraying Michael Jackson in a dance contest. That was wrong. Awful. Racist. I should have known better. I'm sorry. I know better now. If I don't come clean about this now, it is likely come out eventually, and I want to be honest about it. You can decide based upon my behavior and actions since then if I have grown, and learned to respect the needs and feelings of Black people and other People of Color. If you feel I have, and still would like me to represent you as Governor, I would be honored."
Boom. So easy. Unless you're white, apparently, and want to acquire power and hope people won't find out about the reasons you don't deserve it.
Governor Northam should resign. Period.