Condemning Ralph Northam

Allie Boulier, Associate Editor

By Allie Boulier

When Virginia gets the spotlight from national media, it’s never a good sign. Our state gained attention after the Virginia Tech shooting that killed 33 people and in 2017 when Charlottesville, Virginia was home to a white supremacy protest that ended with one woman killed by a car.

Governor Ralph Northam is now another blemish on Virginian history as racist photos of his medical school yearbook from 1984 leaked. The page, which is entitled ¨Ralph Shearer Northam¨  features his headshot to the left. To the right of that picture is two people who cannot be identified. One of these people is in blackface and the other is in Ku Klux Klan robes.

Governor Northam originally released an apology for the photo, but now claims he ¨believes¨ he is neither person and refuses to resign. Famous politicians from all beliefs and across party lines currently agree Ralph Northam should resign. Virginia’s two senators, who are also in the Democratic Party, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have called for his resignation along with Attorney General Mark Herring and Virginia’s former governor (who happens to be the first African American governor of Virginia) Doug Wilder.

Ironically, Attorney General Mark Herring recently admitted to wearing blackface in 1980 to look like a rapper when he attended the University of Virginia. In light of the scandal, Herring has announced he is unclear on whether or not he will continue to serve, pending the results of the scandal.

More famously, former Vice President Joe Biden and current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have urged Governor Northam to resign. President Trump himself even tweeted Northam´s actions are ¨Unforgivable!¨

It doesn’t take a genius to see that when politicians who can’t even agree on keeping the government open and functioning agree on a resignation, there should be no question.

There are, in fact, many aspects of this story that I believe completely condemn Northam and make his resignation necessary for the commonwealth. Firstly, the picture is from 1984. There is no excuse of ¨back in my day this was socially acceptable,¨ many of our parents are Northam´s age, and 1984 was much more modernized than the fifties. Secondly, this is not a high school yearbook picture, it’s from medical school. In 1984, Ralph Northam was around the age of 25. He was not a child, it was not a ¨dumb mistake.¨ he was a functioning adult with a functioning brain who made a conscious decision, which brings me to my next point.

Originally, Governor Northam apologized for the photo. Why would he apologize for the photo if it wasn’t him? And how do you ¨mistakenly¨ think that is yourself in a photograph? Honestly, this begs the question of whether or not this incident even stood out to Northam as something wrong he did if he cannot even place if it was, in fact, him. Now his current denial of the photograph is suspicious because of his original apology, not to mention that these two people cannot be identified, so his claim cannot be proven.

Other racist photographs were also found in other pages of the yearbook, such as a white man on page 34 holding a coffee mug that reads as follows: ¨We can’t get fired! Slaves have to be sold.” There are also other pictures of people in blackface, but I could truly go on for ages on the number of racist pictures that just happen to appear in Governor Ralph Northam´s yearbook.

In the midst of calls for resignation, eyes are slowing turning towards the current Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, who happens to be African American.

Fairfax has so far expressed his support for Northam but did not attend Northam´s hour-long press conference about the photograph, where he announced he will not resign. In the event Governor Northam does resign, which he has said he will do if he feels he can no longer govern, Fairfax will become Governor.

Fairfax appears to be the perfect band-aid to fix Governor Northam´s mistake, although (a conservative website, incidentally the same website that originally covered Northam´s racist photograph) released a sexual assault allegation against Fairfax from 15 years ago in the form of a Facebook post. So far, Fairfax´s office is denying the allegation.

The most interesting thing about this allegation was the woman making the allegation, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, originally approached the Washington Post. After the Post investigated for months, they found ¨facts consistent with the Lt. Governor’s denial of the allegation, the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation, and significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegation, the Post made the considered decision not to publish the story,” according to CBS 6 News.

While Fairfax´s story may currently still be breaking, Governor Northam´s is surely almost over. His inevitable resignation must happen for the commonwealth to move on and create a better reputation. In times like these, we must ask ourselves what our expectations are for our leaders and representatives. In 2019, with all of the political turmoil our country faces, our expectations may not be high but there is still a standard to meet to be an elected official of the people. Governor Northam no longer meets that standard, and it seems he never did.