February 1, 2019

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has issued a statement admitting that he does appear in a photo on his 1984 college yearbook page depicting a man in blackface and another in a KKK hood, though he has not said which one is him.

The photo was released earlier today by Patrick Howley, formerly of Breitbart and The Daily Caller, and currently with right-wing site Big League Politics. UPDATE: Howley also worked for Roy Moore.

This follows 48 hours of right-wing manufactured outrage over remarks Northam made on late-term abortions, a topic which Fox News has been flogging hourly in order to stoke up some wedge issues to reunite Trump's fractured base.

Right wing hijinks notwithstanding, there's really no excuse for this. Yes, we've heard that Northam doesn't have a racist bone in his body, that he's never been insensitive to race in his public life, etc. And yes, in 1984, Reagan was in the White House, racism was still rampant everywhere, and the Dukes of Hazzard was a top-rated series. Nevertheless, this photo is offensive on so many levels it's hard to understand how Northam got as far as he did in politics without anyone discovering it.

So, what now? Resignation is the only pathway forward, though Northam does not acknowledge that at this time. At the same time, I would appreciate it if the Virginia Republican Party, who put their arms around white supremacist Corey Stewart, kept their nose out of whatever comes next.

Just last week, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, the only African-American elected official in Virginia, sat out a state Senate tribute to Robert E. Lee. Change is slow to come, but it surely won't come as long as Democrats excuse their white governor appearing in blackface or KKK robes.

Here's my bottom line: As Democrats, we cannot excuse this kind of behavior, even if it was 35 years ago. He needs to resign. It is also true that this was a right-wing hit related to the abortion furor which has failed to get the traction they'd hoped for.

Both things are true, but the outcome must be that the Lieutenant Governor becomes Governor. We really need to stop loading the right-wingers' guns. Maybe Justin Fairfax should have been the candidate in the first place. Food for thought.

I'll update this post with any developments if they break tonight.

UPDATE: Northam has released this video statement. I'm honestly not sure how one "does the hard work" of earning back trust for something they did in 1984 when yes, there was racism but even then blackface wasn't okay. See Danson, Ted for an example. Yes, it was 1993 and wasn't anymore okay then than it was in 1984, or 1964, or any time, really.

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