State Watch

Northam says blackface scandal gave him ‘a head start’ before last year’s racial justice movement

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in an interview published Monday that the blackface scandal that rocked his administration after an old photo resurfaced gave him “a head start” on last year’s national reckoning against racial injustice.

Two years ago, a photo from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook came to light that showed the governor with a man in blackface and another dressed in KKK robes.

“That was a difficult time for Virginia and I’m thankful that Virginians stuck with me,” he told The Guardian. “We had worked on a lot of equity issues prior to February 2019 but it really allowed me to travel around: I had listening tours and meetings and I learned so much from various people across Virginia.”

“The more I know, the more I can do, so we’ve really been able to put a stronger focus on equity and I made it clear to our administration, to our cabinet secretaries, that whether it be agriculture or education or health or whatever, we would address the inequities that continue to exist in our society today,” Northam added.

The governor also discussed the killing of George Floyd, saying it was an “awakening for a lot of people that look like me that hadn’t really ever thought through it in such detail.”

“So I kind of had a head start before that tragedy but I think it was an awakening. People said this just this is not right and we need to make changes,” he said.

Virginia was prominent site of the protests against Confederate statues and symbols that blossomed as part of the Black Lives Matter resurgence last year. Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, still contains multiple tributes to it and its leaders.

Northam will soon be leaving office as Virginia rules prohibit governors from running for reelection.

The Virginia governor last week endorsed Jay Jones for attorney general, snubbing incumbent Mark Herring (D) who is seeking a third term.

Herring had been on of the first Virginia state officials to call for Northam to resign after the blackface scandal. However, Herring later admitted to wearing blackface when he was a student at the University of Virginia in the 1980s.

Tags Black Lives Matter Blackface George Floyd racial injustice Ralph Northam systemic racism The Guardian Virginia

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