Virginia, It’s 2019

It’s been a hard time recently for Virginia with this scandal, but it safe to say that it has been a lot harder for a lot more people, for example the African Americans victims of sexual assault.



Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with his wife Pam at his side, said at a news conference in the Executive Mansion on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, that he is not the person in the racist photo in the EVMS yearbook and he will not resign. (Steve Earley/Virginian Pilot/TNS)

Being removed from the situation, it’s easy to take a look and laugh about how the reputation of the state government of Virginia is in shambles over a picture from an old yearbook, but it is no laughing matter. The top three officials of the state of Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark R. Herring, in addition to Thomas K. Norment Jr., the Republican majority leader in the Virginia Senate, are all facing pretty hefty scandals at the moment.

A photo from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows two men, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, on the same page as the governor. A half-page from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, photographed by The Virginian-Pilot on February 1, 2019. (Virginian Pilot/TNS)

To get to the gist of it, Gov. Northam was pictured dressed in blackface in a yearbook photo. He claimed responsibility, then the very next day said it wasn’t him, but admitted to having blackface on a completely different occasion and then refused to step down. The second perpetrator the Lieutenant Gov. Fairfax, then faced allegations from a woman who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by him while on the campaign trails in 2004. He claims that the article is a smear tactic, and then a second woman came out against him, with similar claims of sexual assault. Thirdly the Attorney General Herring decided to join the party and made a statement that he had worn blackface as well in the 1980’s. Then yearbooks came up again, this time to bust the Republican Majority Leader in the Virginia State Senate Norment for publishing racist slurs in the yearbook, which he was editor-in-chief of.

The Huffington Post

That’s a lot to unpack. To go chronologically based on the scandals break themselves, lets starts with the incidents concerning politicians participating in blackface. This isn’t the first time a politician has possessed a seedy past with the single most recognizable incident of inherently racist behavior. The history of blackface is as American as cherry pie but twice as bad for the heart. With its origins deriving from minstrel shows depicting and blatantly mocking recently freed African Americans, they were a form of entertainment that was meant to reinforce the popular idea at the time that African Americans were lesser in every way possible. Neither Northam nor Norment Jr. were participating in minstrel shows, but through their actions, they were paying homage to them.

It is baffling to think that an elected official, even if they didn’t know the history behind blackface, would have the audacity to do what they have done. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that smiling and standing next to a someone dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, while dressed like someone that they viciously hate isn’t a good idea.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax talks about the allegations of sexual assault and the possibility of him becoming the next governor of Virginia on February 4, 2019. (Steve Earley/Virginian Pilot/TNS)

Then to the sexual assault cases against Fairfax, it is perfectly fine to deny allegations but to refer to them as a “smear” when being interviewed by a member of the Associated Press is quite another. 2018 was a good year, a great year for women, so there is no reason for us to take one step forward and two steps back at the first opportunity.

Overall people should be able to come forward about past actions and admit that they have changed. Those involved shouldn’t have to be removed from office, if they are as changed as they all claim to be then they can resign in good conscience. We don’t want to create a society based on complete tolerance, just one that promotes change, and even if Virginia is a little behind, 2019 can still be a great year for America. The solution to the problem in Virginia though? Stop, drop and resign.