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Northam’s time as Virginia governor is up

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Northam’s time as Virginia governor is up


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Recently, Virginia governor Ralph Northam faced criticisms due to racist, offensive  endeavors as a college student in the 1980s. Photos of Northam’s yearbook picture in 1984 reveal a student with his skin and entire face smothered in brown makeup, also known as “black face.” In the viral photo, there stands another student dressed up in Klu Klux Klan attire, insinuating extreme racial intolerance and using it as a mere joke. It remains unclear which caricature Northam posed as in the picture, but he did admit to participating in the photo on Friday, February 7, despite denying it previously.

Blackface—the act of painting one’s face and/or body brown for the purpose of imitating a black person—pertains to a long history of struggles and grievances faced by African-Americans, demeaning them to a stereotype that portrays their skin color as a means of ‘fun’ and ‘a joke.’ The use of blackface dates back to as early as the 1830s, where white performers would put on comedy shows to imitate and mock the slaves forced to work on plantations. In 1830, white comedian Thomas Dartmouth Rice would develop the first popular blackface character known as “Jim Crow,” degrading African-Americans to stereotypes that portray ignorance, unintelligence, and laziness.

The internet, of course, quickly circulated the picture around social media and news outlets across the country. Protests and angry social media posts arose, demanding that the Virginia governor resign his position in office. Just over the past week, several other U.S. governors called on Northam to resign his position, including Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

As a young adult, Ralph Northam willingly contributed to the ignorance that comes with the use of blackface, making him unrepresentative of the modern tolerance that America longs to demonstrate in today’s era. When the photo first circulated, Northam initially admitted to participating in the photo, and apologized for it. The following day, Northam denied he had participated as either ‘character’ in the photo, demonstrating an act of dishonesty and taking away from his credibility as a leading political figure in the United States. With the call to resign from Americans across the nation, and a large amount of Virginians who had elected him in the first place, Northam should no longer hold onto his status as the Governor of Virginia.

With the issue of racism remaining prevalent in the modern age, it seems as if a significant amount of the American public believes in advancing as a culturally and racially tolerant country. The issue with Northam may not necessarily deal with the ignorance he pertained to in his youth, such as demonstrated in the 1984 yearbook photo, but dealt with the way in which he handled it. He failed to address his actions in a proper manner, which ideally would address the state of racial intolerance in America, and apologize for his actions as a young adult and his perceived mockery of the black community.

Upon his denial of participation in the controversial photo, Northam also revealed that he had worn shoe polish on his face for a dance contest, dressed up as Michael Jackson, after his time in medical school. He also admitted that “Coonman” had became one of his more popular nicknames in college. After the revelations, Northam has failed to provide any potentially reasonable explanations for his actions or provide any input on his calls for resignation. Lacking in essential communication with the American people, it seems as if Northam’s time as governor comes to an end, and a large amount of the nation seems to agree. In result of this scandal, the trust between he and the public has deteriorated rapidly, exposing his unfit qualification to fill the position of a governor any longer.

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Northam’s time as Virginia governor is up