Gov. Northam addresses ‘clearly racist and offensive’ yearbook photo

Virginia News
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(WRIC) — A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook page from medical school, which the governor called “clearly racist and offensive,” has provoked several allies to call for the governor’s resignation after showing two people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes. 

The two people in the photograph are holding what appear to be beer cans and the one in blackface is wearing sunglasses and smiling. 

After multiple requests for comment, Northam released a statement apologizing for appearing in the photo but did not specify which person in the photo he is:

“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.

I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.

This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.

I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”

                                                                                    – Gov. Ralph Northam 

Gov. Northam later released a video statement in which he declared his intentions to serve out his term and not resign.

“I believe you deserve to hear directly from me,” Gov. Northam stated. “That photo, and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents, does not reflect that person I am today, or the way that I’ve conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and public servant. I am deeply sorry.”

The yearbook page is titled Ralph Shearer Northam and also shows images of Northam in front of a Corvette, wearing a jacket and tie and one of him wearing a cowboy hat.  

The photos inside Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook, first revealed by bigleaguepolitics.com, show a person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit and another in blackface.(courtesy WAVY).

The Democratic governor graduated from the medical school, based in Norfolk, in 1984 after attending VMI. 

The yearbook page displays details from Northam, including his alma mater, interest and a quote.

The alma mater listed is Virginia Military Institute and pediatrics is listed as an interest.  

The quote on the page reads: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.” 

Northam’s yearbook photos were first released by the site Big League Politics on Friday afternoon. 

Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, two Democrats, responded to the release of the photos from Northam’s yearbook.

“The racist photo from Governor Northam’s 1984 yearbook is horrible. This causes pain in a state and a country where centuries of racism have already left an open wound. I hope the Governor—whose career as an Army officer, pediatrician and public official has always manifested a commitment to justice and equality for all—now takes the time to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward.”

                                                                                       -Sen. Tim Kaine 

Sen. Warner echoed Kaine’s statement by saying Northam needs to listen to those he has hurt. 

“This photo is shocking and deeply offensive, all the more so because of Virginia’s long and painful history of racism and violence toward African Americans. The Governor must now listen to the people and communities he has hurt, and carefully consider what comes next.”

                                                                                      -Sen. Mark Warner

NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted after Northam’s apologize and called for the governor’s resignation.  

After meeting with Gov. Northam late Friday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said the governor should resign.  

The announcement, possibly the most important call for the governor’s resignation, came in a statement following the meeting. 

“We just finished meeting with the Governor. We fully appreciate all that he has contributed to
our Commonwealth. But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer
effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process
of healing,” the statement read. 

After the controversial photos were released, 8News found Northam’s VMI yearbook picture, located on its digital archive site, which displays a racially offensive nickname underneath. 

Virginia’s Republican leaders in the General Assembly called for Northam to explain the photograph: “This is a deeply disturbing and offensive photograph in need of an immediate explanation by the Governor,” read a statement from the office of House Speaker Kirk Cox. 

The Republican Party of Virginia tweeted Gov. Northam, “has lost the moral authority to continue to govern and should resign immediately.”  

Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story. 

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