The Long, Painful Legacy Of Blackface In America (HBO)

Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia—for now. But he’s facing increasing pressure to resign after a conservative media site unearthed a photo of a man in blackface on Northam’s page in a 1984 medical school yearbook.

Northam insists it isn’t him in the photo. And the New York Times today reported that a group of his medical school classmates is standing behind him. “We fully believe Governor Ralph Northam is neither of the individuals in those repugnant costumes,” they wrote in a letter. “We attended classes with the Governor. We socialized with him. We knew him very well.”

But even if Northam can prove he isn’t in the photo, there’s another problem: In a press conference on Saturday, Northam admitted he had “darkened” his face for fun around the same time. “That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” he said. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

Northam may not have understood that “harmful legacy” back in the 80’s—plenty of people didn’t. In fact, many still don’t understand it now.

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