Is there absolution for Governor Ralph Northam?

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Ralph Northam, the Democratic Governor of Virginia is facing intensifying pressure to step down after controversy erupted when the conservative media website, Big League Politics, published a racist photo from his page in Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook. Northam has since stated that he is not depicted in the photo though he admitted wearing blackface during a separate instance that year.

Northam, 59, has served as the Governor of Virginia since January 13, 2018. Prior to that, he served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia for four years.

During a 40-minute news conference, Northam apologized en suite with “damage control” handbook as there seemed to be a reluctance to take responsibility for racist actions/behaviors. Rather, there was a downplaying:

  • “I only posed for pictures in blackface that one time”
  • It was a long time ago
  • How many times does he have to say “I’m sorry”
  • There’s not a racist bone in his body
  • It wasn’t that big of a deal, and everybody was doing it
  • Nobody’s perfect
  • It wasn’t me

Chicago Tribune columnist, Eric Zorn, is “inclined to chalk up Northam’s decision to obliviousness rather than racism, particularly in light of his public record on race in the intervening 35 years, which even most of his African-American critics concede has been exemplary.”

In stark contrast, Derrick Johnson, President, and CEO of the NAACP tweeted, “Blackface in any manner is always racist and never okay. No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the @NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor.” Johnson’s sentiment is also shared by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and other fellow Democrats including Virginia’s two Democratic U.S. senators and its senior member of Congress.

Does dressing up in blackface (35 years ago) disqualify you from a leadership position, today? Is there a statute of limitations for racist behavior? Should Gov. Ralph Northam have to be held accountable for his racist actions? What should accountability look like? Is there absolution?

What do you think, should Ralph Northam resign?

In closing, Whatever your opinion is, this provides further evidence that there is still an ongoing need for cultural-awareness initiatives, across the board.

P.S. #dearAmerica It absolutely NEVER okay, acceptable, funny, justifiable, etc., to wear blackface – not even on Halloween and definitely not during Black History Month – #PERIOD #dontbelikeralph

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