With the surfacing of an offensive photograph from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook, the Executive Board of the Young Democrats at Virginia Tech released a statement calling for Northam’s resignation.
On Friday, Feb. 1, Big League Politics published photos of Northam from his medical school yearbook that includes an image of two people in blackface and KKK attire.
Northam confirmed that he was in the photo in his statement on Friday.
“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 the statement. “I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work.”
The Young Democrats at Virginia Tech believe the only way Northam can fix this situation is to step down.
“In our view, Gov. Northam is incapable of leading us forward through the process of healing that needs to take place,” the statement read. “This is a painful time for all of us, and the Young Democrats at Virginia Tech wishes to remain an organization where marginalized groups can feel protected from such reprehensible behavior. We cannot associate ourselves with these kinds of actions –– they are in full contrast with what our organization stands for.”
On Saturday, Northam told lawmakers that he would not resign because that is the “easy way out.” He also retracted his statement from Friday and now denies being in the yearbook photo. He said “that is not my person on that picture in the yearbook,” and he asked Virginians to accept his word during a press release; however, he recalled a time he used blackface for a dance competition right after he graduated from medical school, when he dressed as Michael Jackson.
The Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said in a statement following the news that Northam would not resign said that “we stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus released a statement Saturday morning amplifying their call for Northam to resign, along with the Virginia House Democrats who stated that “a leader must have the confidence of the people in order to effectively govern, and unfortunately, that is no longer the case for Gov. Northam.”
Delegate Chris Hurst, 12th district, stated that he stands with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and calls again on Northam to resign.
“Racism in any form is inexcusable,” Hurst said in a tweet on Friday. “We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of our past. In the wake of these unsettling discoveries about Gov. Northam, Virginians are demanding better from their leaders. I ask Gov. Northam to listen to his constituents and resign.”
In a joint statement released on Saturday, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Mark Warner and Congressman Bobby Scott stated they no longer believe Northam can serve as the governor of Virginia after his press conference and should step down and “allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.”
Payne Tarkenton, president of Young Democrats at Virginia Tech, said he and his organization support the official position of other democratic organizations across Virginia. He said there were several issues that happened because of the press conference Northam held on Saturday and was not sufficient to resolve the problem.
“Our club called for Gov. Northam to resign Friday evening when he first came out with a statement saying that he was in the photo,” said Tarkenton, who is also a senior majoring in political science and history. “And then after his press conference yesterday with this new claim (that he was neither of the figures in the photo), we felt that the answers that he gave (were) unsatisfactory … So myself and our organization, felt even after the press conference and after his new claim, that Gov. Northam should still resign.”
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also made a comment in regards to the issue on Saturday, in which he said he is committed to serving and helping to heal the Commonwealth. Tarkenton said Fairfax has handled this situation well.
“He's got my full support to lead us from this chapter and start the process, long as it may be, of healing, and of reconciling and moving on as best we can from this whole ordeal,” Tarkenton said.