Virginia Governor Ralph Northam should apologize for his past

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va. Northam clung to his office Tuesday, Feb. 5, amid intense political fallout over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook and uncertainty about the future of the state's government. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Recently, a controversial yearbook photo depicting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has surfaced. Northam is one of two men pictured; one is wearing blackface and is standing next to another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. 

Since then, many people have called for Northam’s resignation, while others have advocated for Northam to remain governor. 

Northam’s first response to the picture was apologetic — he apologized for the picture and acknowledged that such a thing is not, and never was, okay. 

However, after hearing people continue advocating for his resignation after his apology, Northam denied being in the photo altogether. This denial comes in spite of the fact that the page is labeled with his name and that he made a prior apology. 

Northam should take full responsibility for the picture and should give a sincere public apology. He should denounce racism and his previous actions and, if it comes to it, resign. 

By apologizing for his previous actions, Northam is saying that he changed as a person and does not condone or tolerate such racist actions. However, denying he was ever in the picture says that he would rather ignore his past than say he changed. 

People are capable of change and I believe Northam’s previous advocacy for change has been positive. All of his political positions from when he was Lieutenant Gov. of Virginia, and now governor, seem to point to the fact that he is not the same person he was when the yearbook picture was taken. 

This being said, although he may have changed, he needs to make that publicly known; he cannot pretend to have never participated in such foul acts and hope for the whole situation to disappear on its own.  

As for his possible resignation, his approval ratings have fallen immensely, and perhaps at this time, it is best for him to resign. It should be known that something like a prior attitude on racism can be changed. 

Looking at the case of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, an action such as sexual assault is against the law, horrible and cannot be forgiven with just a few words of repentance. Kavanaugh — despite allegedly sexually assaulting multiple women in the past, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee — is a member of the United States Supreme Court and will remain there until he is impeached, retires or dies. Kavanaugh’s actions were despicable and illegal. Nevertheless, he remains a justice of the most powerful court in the country. 

Racism, no matter how horrible and wrong, is not illegal. Northam has the chance to apologize for his past, which would be the best course of action at this time. If he can truly say that he is a changed man and that he regrets his racism from when he was younger, we, as the public, may be able to forgive him. 

Northam’s future rides on his next actions. He should publically apologize, and take responsibility for his past; that is the only way that he can move on.


Anika Veeraraghav is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.