Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has been at the center of a blackface controversy for several weeks. An old Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photo from 1984 resurfaced online depicting two men---one believed to be Northam--- the first in blackface and the second in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
What started out as a blackface scandal grabbing national headlines, slowly became an illuminating political powder keg waiting to explode. Other high-ranking officials came forward revealing their past racist actions.
But among the calls for Northam's resignation, fellow Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is also facing calls to resign after a slew of sexual misconduct allegations became public knowledge. The state of Virginia is in total political disarray.
1. A picture resurfaces showing current Virginia governor Ralph Northam wearing blackface.
Ralph Northam's worries began when former employees from the popular far-right site, Breitbart, found the controversial blackface photo. As Blavity reported previously, the Democrat apologized immediately after the photo came out.
"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," Northam said in a video message via Twitter on February 1. However, Northam ultimately retracted his apology by claiming neither man in the photo was him.
"I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo," Northam said on February 3 in a press conference. "This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam."
The 59-year-old explained in the presser that he did don blackface at one point. But that moment was not the incident featured in the controversial photo. He reportedly dressed up as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, as part of a dance competition in San Antonio in 1984.
Over the past two weeks, Northam went on an apology tour conducting interviews on major news outlets. Calls for his resignation continued to come from in-state Democrats and major presidential hopefuls like Senator Kamala Harris. He has made it clear he will not step down.
Just as the smoke began to clear, a new controversy brewed. Northam called enslaved Black people arriving in Virginia in 1619 "indentured servants."
“We are now at the 400-year anniversary – just 90 miles from here in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we now call Fort Monroe,” he told Gayle King during a "CBS This Morning" interview.
His outrageous comment prompted a new apology.
2. Republican State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment Jr. edited a college yearbook where students were depicted wearing blackface.
Throughout the last two weeks, other state politicians came forward admitting to wearing blackface or being connected to such racist acts in the past.
Republican State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment Jr., Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring and now Fairfax are in the hot seat. Norment did not wear blackface. He did, however, edit the Virginia Military Institute yearbook, The Bomb, in 1968.
As the yearbook's managing editor, he oversaw the production and gave the go-ahead on numerous racial photos in the book. At least three photos showed white students in blackface at a costume party. One photo depicted two people in the makeup holding a football.
“I was kind of the first sergeant," the 72-year-old told The Virginia-Pilot. “I'm still culpable, but it is by association with a team that produced that yearbook with those photos.”
The Pilot reports anti-black slurs and other racist phrases aimed at Asians were written in the book. Coincidentally, these obscene photos were taken in 1968, the same year the institution first permitted Black students to enroll.
In regards to Herring, his blackface incident occurred in 1980. The AG wore blackface during his undergraduate years at the University of Virginia (UVA) to look like a rapper. Blavity reported Herring tried to impersonate legendary rapper Kurtis Blow.
3. The lieutenant governor of Virginia comes head to head with the #MeToo Movement.
Fairfax, the heir apparent in wake of these controversies, is also at the center of a storm of sexual misconduct and rape allegations. Last month, there were only good things to report about the 39-year-old. He protested the state's official tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee for the second year in a row.
An accuser named Meredith Watson came forward alleging Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University. Watson said he raped her after he learned a basketball player, former NBA player Corey Maggette, raped her previously when she was a sophomore.
"She left a campus party when he arrived, and he followed her out," Watson's attorneys said in a statement. "She turned and asked: 'Why did you do it?' Mr. Fairfax answered: 'I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything.'"
Her accusation comes after Dr. Vanessa Tyson revealed in a detailed 3-page statement about her run-in with Fairfax. Reportedly, the two met at the 2004 Democratic convention.
"Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth," Tyson wrote.
Fairfax has denied both allegations against him. And the once, promising politician seems to be on the downturn.
Protesters are demanding all four politicians resign immediately so that the state can move forward. But no one in the group plans to step down.
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