Band Of Sherlocks Unable To Determine If Ralph Northam Appeared In His Own Racist Yearbook Pic

Post-Racial America
Band Of Sherlocks Unable To Determine If Ralph Northam Appeared In His Own Racist Yearbook Pic

We've dragged Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam a lot over the past few months, so it's only fair that we share the news that Gov. Blackface Moonwalk was recently cleared on all charges of aggravated minstrelsy. Investigators still can't confirm if it's actually Northam in the 1984 yearbook photo of an asshole in blackface having a drink with another asshole in a KKK robe. They spent four months examining the photo, and all they were able to prove is that blackface and a Klan costume are effective disguises if you wish to commit serious crimes.

"We could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the photograph," said the report commissioned by Eastern Virginia Medical School. "The governor himself has made inconsistent public statements in this regard."

This is, of course, ridiculous. The racist photo appeared on Northam's own yearbook page. Occam's racist states that Northam is either the jazz singer or the strange fruit farmer. A one-armed klansman didn't try to frame Northam, because this was 1984 Virginia. If someone wanted to ruin him socially and professionally, they'd have planted a photo of Northam holding hands with a black woman.

Eastern Virginia Medical School reportedly has known about this racist photo for years now. A while back, an alumni affairs director found the 1984 yearbook lying on a table before an event. It was quickly removed. Former EVM president Harry T. Lester knew about the photo, as well, but chose to do nothing. He served from 2005 to 2013, and during his tenure, the assistant vice president of marketing and communications, the associate vice president for the Office of Development, and the alumni affairs director were all aware of the photo on Northam's page but remained silent.

Northam entered politics in 2007 when he was elected to the Virginia state Senate. He served as lieutenant governor from 2014 to 2018. Vincent Rhodes, the assistant vice president for marketing and communications, informed Lester about the yearbook photo during one of these campaigns. Lester's position was to "stay out of politics," and while craven and cowardly, his decision did avoid alienating a powerful alum.

Richard Homan, the school's current president, learned about the photo in the spring of 2017, during the Democratic primary for governor. Brant Cox, Homan's chief of staff, thought they might want to do something, but doing nothing was why Homan was paid the big bucks. Don't worry: Homan thought the photo was "extraordinarily offensive and inflammatory," but he wasn't about to risk getting "political."

HOMAN: In no way did I want to be perceived as having put any weight on the scales of an election. That was not my job. My job is to manage and grow and improve the academic institution for which I'm responsible.

That job description also had the ancillary benefit of covering up politically explosive information about Northam. He solidly defeated his primary opponents in 2013 and 2017, but who knows what impact the blackface klansman photo would've had on the race. (It wasn't a Republican primary, after all, so it's not a cinch that the picture would have helped him win.) Black people do vote in these elections. His wife also might not have been present at the time to prevent him from moonwalking during any press conferences.

Oh well, it's all behind us now. Northam declared this week that Virginians have "turned the page." We hope so. There was a guy in blackface on that page.

NORTHAM: Virginians want us to move forward. They want a leader, such as me.

Slow down there, Lincoln. Don't try to distract us with your soaring oratory. Polls did show that voters wanted Northam to remain in office, but Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is an accused rapist and the guy next in line, Attorney General Mark Herring, was also blackface-curious in college. There were no good options here, and the GOP has had a grand old time gloating.

National GOP chair Ronna McDaniel also slathered on the schadenfreude.

Noted philosopher Bono once said "a secret is something you tell one other person," so it's astonishing that the cone of silence over Northam's yearbook photo remained intact for so long. It wasn't until Northam's perfectly sensible comments this year about abortion that a "concerned citizen" tipped off the press about the photo. That's when the pin was pulled on the blackface grenade, and it says a lot about certain people's priorities.


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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