Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has recently been at the center of attention in the news after a story published in the Virginian Pilot showed photos from the East Virginia Medical School’s yearbook where Northam is seen in blackface. A peer next to him was dressed as a member of the KKK.
Northam had originally responded apologizing for the photo and his actions, but then switched his story, saying it was not him in the photo at all. He has admitted to applying shoe polish to his face to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest. There have been many politicians caught in situations involving racism, however, Northam is just one among the many surfacing.
Northam is refusing to resign from his position as Virginia’s governor. If he does resign, Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax would be next in line and Attorney General Mark R. Herring after him.
However, residents in Virginia are far from happy, as there are sexual assault allegations against Fairfax and Herring has admitted to wearing blackface in college. Herring’s statement said: “Some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time … It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup. This was a one-time occurrence, and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.”
In our modern day and age, politicians’ sincerity is always being questioned, and rightfully so. The authenticity in Northam’s regrets is shown to be very shallow, due to him switching his story. When Northam retracted his admittance over the photo, it showed a lot about his character. He knows very well that it was he in the photo, whether he wants to admit it or not. He showed us that he is being far from genuine in his lack of regret over his past actions as he goes back and forth in his claims.
Sophomore history major Kyla Church said: “We know it’s you, you don’t have to bounce back and forth between truth and lies, trying to figure out whether or not it’d be better for you to lie or tell the truth. We don’t have time for that bulls–t. Be honest.”
Some of the most important qualities a leader can have are honesty and sincerity, and there is no doubt that there has been a lack of those qualities in our current society.
Tracie Guzzio, the director of the honors program and an English professor said: “I think people who do that don’t understand why someone’s offended. In each of these cases of whether he’s the blackface character or he’s the KKK guy, they’re both examples of ‘I want to have fun, and I don’t care if that hurts someone else.’ That’s not what we think is important to be a human. I think that’s the problem, we’ve lost an empathetic connection to one another.”
In our current political climate, an environment has been created where people’s experiences and tragedies have been taught to not matter. And the current leaders in office, whether it is Ralph Northam or Donald Trump, have taken away the value of how important one’s words and actions are.
These individuals who are in positions of power are not being held responsible, and it does not align with being truthful, honest or genuine in one’s intentions, which are the qualities a leader should have.
The future of Virginia’s leadership still remains in question, but all we can hope for is that this can turn out to be an example of what consequences look like in response to one’s ignorant and insulting actions.