Politicians should be held accountable for previous actions


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Politicians make the decisions that affect our day to day lives and help to create the laws that run our country.

By Nora Holland, Opinions Editor

A picture is worth a thousand words. The picture in Va. Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook is worth one: unforgivable.

The governor recently stumbled into the spotlight after his yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical school resurfaced, causing an uproar of anger. The picture depicts two white men at what seems to be a costume party, with one of them in blackface and the other wearing a Klu Klux Klan uniform.

According to a Feb. 2019 Politico article, Northam claimed that he “was not either of the men in the photo” but admitted to doing blackface once “for a Michael Jackson costume.”

Blackface was used in the mid and late 19th century by white performers on stage for entertainment. These portrayals were not only mocking of the black community, but extremely dehumanizing as well.

According to an Oct. 2014 Vox article, blackface also enforces the “damaging stereotypes” that go hand in hand with “violence, American racism and centuries worth of injustice.”

In short, blackface is not a joke nor is it something to be messed around with, and using it as a finishing touch to a Halloween costume is nothing short of scornful. Additionally, whether Northam was one of the men in the picture or not, having it on his yearbook page does not help his case, nor does it matter that it was taken in 1984. By 1984, people knew how inappropriate and socially unacceptable it was to do blackface, let alone dress up as a member of a white supremacist hate group responsible for the murdering of thousands of African Americans.

According to a Feb. 2019 CNN article, Northam said in a statement that he understands the costumes were “clearly racist and offensive” and that he is “deeply sorry,” although he has no plans on resigning because of it.

This picture prompted the question: even though he apologized, should Northam be held accountable for the choices he made as a medical school student? Should he maintain his position as governor after being exposed as racist in the past? Ultimately, should what he did in the past affect his future? The simple answer: yes.

Circling back to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing in Sept., Northam’s situation has a similar theme. Both men have had past mistakes creep up on them and threaten to steal their careers. However, despite the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh, he was still able to be confirmed as Associate Justice; he should not have been able to brush off his alleged crimes, and neither should Northam.

The state Northam governs has had its own past of white supremacy. Just two years ago in the summer of 2017, neo-Nazis and Klansmen protested in Va., chanting racist and anti-semitic jingles as they stormed the streets of Charlottesville.

According to a Feb. 2019 article from The Atlantic, that year black voters “made up 20 percent of the Virginia electorate” and Northam’s support “soared.” People chose Northam for a reason, and he has let them down.

If Governor Northam sees no repercussions for this photo, this may encourage others that this kind of disrespect is okay.

Even though this picture was taken in the 80s, time does not wear away the pain it can cause for people. It’s 2019; we need to be appreciating and accepting one another for who we are, regardless of our race, gender, religion or sexuality. It’s disappointing to see someone who has spoken against inequality to have carelessly put down others in the past.