Gov. Ralph Northam Affirms Solidarity with Protesters Despite Blackface Scandal: ‘I Can Support You’

RICHMOND, VA - JANUARY 08: Gov. Ralph Northam delivers the State of the Commonwealth address at the Virginia State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. The 2020 legislative session began today under Democratic control. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) affirmed his support of protesters who have flocked to the streets demanding racial justice despite a controversial past stained by last year’s blackface scandal.

“I hear you, and I am here to work with you––that is my message to protestors in Richmond and around Virginia. I cannot know the depth of the pain that black Americans feel right now,” Northam said.

“But I can stand with you, I can support you, and together we can turn this pain into action,” he continued as part of a greater thread, outlining potential solutions. Those include the creation of a “new commission to study slavery in Virginia and the subsequent racial and economic discrimination” and action to make it “easier to vote, not harder”:

Northam faced an explosion of controversy last year after a photo emerged from his medical school yearbook showing an individual in blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan attire:

Northam did not initially deny appearing as one of the individuals in the photo, releasing a statement and addressing the controversy in a video statement:

He later revised his seeming admission, stating that he did “not believe” he was one of the individuals depicted in the viral photograph. However, he admitted to darkening his face for another costume that same year.

“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems, in part, by my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life,” Northam said.

“That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” he continued.

“I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that. It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook,” he added.

A throng of political leaders, including Joe Biden (D), the Democrat Party’s presumptive nominee, called on Northam to resign — an action Northam refused to seriously consider from the onset.

“There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now,” Biden said at the time.

Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) condemned the photo as “racist,” but she stopped short of explicitly instructing him to resign. She also denied that such scandals would damage her party’s brand.

The controversy, however, did not end there.

As Breitbart News detailed:

CBS News uncovered a page from Northam’s yearbook at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that had nicknames under his name, which includes “Coonman,” a racial slur.

During the press conference, Northam said that many friends often called him “Goose” due to his changing voice; however, he does not know why some college friends called him “Coonman.”

“I don’t know what their intent was with that,” Northam said during the press conference

A reporter also asked Northam if he could still moonwalk — a challenge he appeared ready to accept until his wife dismissed it, quipping, “inappropriate circumstances.”

Northam asked Virginians to “grant me their forgiveness for my past actions” but refused to resign, nearly likening his decision to an act of bravery.

“If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past,” he said in part.

“I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile,” he added.

An independent investigation into the photo could not affirm the identity of the individuals depicted in the controversial image that sparked the political firestorm.

Northam in recent days has tried exude support for the protests, many of which have erupted in violence.

On Monday, the governor rejected President Trump’s request to send the National Guard to D.C., dismissing it as nothing more than an opportunity for a “photo-op.”


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