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The Blue & Gray Press | February 24, 2019

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Staff Ed: Government officials should resign following disturbing blackface photos and sexual misconduct allegations

Staff Ed: Government officials should resign following disturbing blackface photos and sexual misconduct allegations

By THE BLUE AND GRAY PRESS STAFF

Unsettling and disappointing facts from the past have recently resurfaced about three Virginia government officials. Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring are all receiving demands to resign after their previously racist and sexist behaviors have been brought to light.

On Feb. 1 a conservative news outlet discovered a photo of two individuals dressed in racist attire on Governor Northams medical school yearbook page from his graduation year 1984. One individual is dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire and the other is wearing blackface. The school, Eastern Virginia Medical School, confirmed the photos authenticity.

Following the release of the photo, Governor Northam released a statement on Friday saying

“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.” However less than 24 hours later Northam held a press conference where he said he did not believe he was in the controversial photo. Stating that he would have remembered posing for such a picture, he admitted to darkening his face for a Michael Jackson impersonation contest the same year that the yearbook was published.   

Despite a severe drop in his approval rating, and voters and politicians alike demanding he resign, Northam has shown no indication that he intends to step down from being his position.

As Virginians were trying to process their shock surrounding Governor Northams actions, they were met with two more controversies within the state government. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault, a claim which he adamantly denies, and Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted to dressing in blackface as a part of a rapper costume when he was 19.   

Lt. Governor Fairfax has stated that the sexual encounter between him and California university professor Vanessa Tyson 15 years ago was “100 percent consensual.” While Fairfax has asked for his family and Tyson’s family to be respected and given privacy, he has continually stuck to his initial statement that he has nothing to hide.

However, the graphic description of events released by Tyson on Wednesday, Feb. 6, suggests that the encounter may have started with “consensual kissing” but ended with Fairfax forcing her to perform other actions. Tyson’s depiction of events, along with Lt. Governor Fairfax’s alleged statement of “f–- that b––,” has garnered a lot of media and public attention. Amidst this controversial issue, on Wednesday, Feb. 6,  Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to using blackface as part of a costume at a party in 1980.

The Blue and Gray Press calls for Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring to all resign from office. Under any and all circumstances, Blackface is deeply offensive and blatantly racist. These officials need to be held accountable for their actions. In all three instances these politicians showed a level of ignorance that is intolerable and cannot be allowed to go unpunished. Virginians deserve better from our government officials.

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