To start Black History Month off on the wrong foot, a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam dressed either in blackface or as a Ku Klux Klan member in his 1984 medical school yearbook has surfaced.
Black face has a long history of being used to dehumanize people of color by exaggerating stereotypes of looks and behavior. Blackface was and is used to justify the mistreatment of people of color and to portray whiteness as superior. The Ku Klux Klan is responsible for the deaths of countless minorities, especially people of color. They have used brutal and inhumane tactics to terrorize innocent people. These racist costumes are not a joke.
It’s not only appalling that someone in charge of governing an entire state has participated in this, but the fact that it was so normalized that it could appear in a medical school yearbook with no issues is dangerous. These are the people that are responsible for the medical care of people of color, and they participate in and are exposed to their dehumanization. According to the Center for Disease Control, black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Racism kills.
In Northam’s first statement he apologized for appearing in the photo. In another statement he denied being in the photo at all. Many have called for him to resign, including our own JMU Student Government Association, College Democrats, and College Republicans. This is my personal call for him to resign. Racism has no place in our government and being our governor is a privilege. Ralph Northam needs to resign as governor of Virginia, effective immediately.