Virginia Governor faces blackface backlash

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Virginia Governor faces blackface backlash

Graphic by Carrington Harris

Graphic by Carrington Harris

Graphic by Carrington Harris

Donecia Dunk, Contributor

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is facing backlash due to a recently resurfaced 1984 yearbook picture in which he was shown in a blackface Michael Jackson costume.

Several citizens and government officials are calling for Northam to resign from his position of governor after the photo rose to the public eye last week.

After an apology when the photo was first revealed, Northam went on to deny the blackface, but later stated that it was, in fact, him in the picture which also included another individual in a KKK hood.

“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service,” Northam said In an CNN interview.  “But I want to be clear: I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”

If Northam were to resign, it would essentially be in “good taste” as his actions were not a legal ground for impeachment, according to Republican Senate House Speaker, Kirk Cox.

Blackface has a long, painful history in America and should not be something taken lightly in consideration of that history.

Yet, only about 58 percent of United States citizens actually oppose blackface, according to the Washington Post.

The demographics of these individuals polled are not clear, but there was a large divide between the percentage of Democrats who believed it was unacceptable (81 percent) and the percentage of Republicans (44 percent) who believed it was unacceptable.

Virginia Democratic Attorney General, Mark Herring, is currently in the running to be the next Virginia governor and has admitted to also using blackface for a college party in 1980.

“The shame of that moment has haunted me for decades,” he said. 

The criticism of politicians over blatantly ignorant circumstances and choices is not a new theme in the news and has been extremely common recently.

While some things took place in the past – like this case – others are more recent.

The public is beginning to wonder if it should continue to charge individuals for social crimes committed in their past or weigh them on their current character.

“I think there’s a rush to judgment that is unfair to him,” he said in a CNN interview with former Senator Joe Lieberman.  “He ought to be judged in the context of his whole life”.

Regardless, lying can typically only make a bad situation worse.

Now, it is no longer simply a judge of his past character, but also of his current character after lying about being the person featured in the picture before finally admitting to it.