The state of Virginia has been embroiled in scandal since a photo resurfaced which allegedly depicts Governor Ralph Northam dressed in blackface. The photo appeared on Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, and shows a man dressed in blackface next to another man dressed as a Klansman.
Although Northam at first apologized for dressing in blackface in the photo, he quickly rescinded his admission and claimed he was neither of the two men in the photo.
After being pressed to resign by Democratic politicians and presidential candidates, Northam held a baffling press conference in which he admitted his nickname in medical school was “Coonman,” and that he had dressed in blackface on a different occasion as part of a Michael Jackson costume. Northam is, so far, refusing to resign, while aides have claimed he is trying to make amends by reading Alex Haley’s Roots.
Northam’s scandal came on the heels of Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel’s resignation over a blackface photo from 2005. Ertel, who was appointed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, had donned a racist Hurricane Katrina victim costume at a Halloween party.
After calling on Governor Northam to resign, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface at a 1980 party. Virginia state Senator Tommy Norment edited a yearbook that contained racial slurs and blackface photos.
But while blackface-wearing politicians have faced bipartisan calls for resignation, they at least have one ally: white supremacist and ex-Klan leader David Duke. In a February 5, 2019 livestream, Duke defended the use of blackface, and even tried to portray the racist practice as a compliment because of course he did.
Duke dismissed the idea that “there’s hatred against black people, racism all over the place against black people” because blackface is all in good fun. And in case you needed additional evidence that Duke is completely detached from reality, he claimed that blackface was “often done very nicely about blacks years ago, you know, it was considered entertainment — it was not really hatred against them.”
He added that it “was more done in a loving way, years ago.” No. No it wasn’t.
He went on to complain, as he’s wont to do, that it’s really white people who are under assault, because politicians can’t openly say racist things. (I mean that’s not true either but whatever.) What really sticks in the ex-Klansman’s craw is that President Trump would be rightly criticized for saying white people are being ethnically cleansed from the U.S. in order to “make us a minority in our own country.”
So congratulations Gov. Northam, A.G. Herring, Sen. Norment, and Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-FL). You now have the guy who said black people would rape white women in the Walmart parking lot in your corner to advocate for your right to dress as minstrel characters. You’ve earned it.