By J. D. Heyes
Virginiaâ€™s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam was exposed last week as a blatant racist after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook turned up on his page featuring one person in blackface and another dressed in KKK robes and a hood.
After apologizing for the offensive picture, NorthamÂ has been â€˜encouragedâ€™ to step downÂ from his position by several Leftist Democrats including two running for their partyâ€™s 2020 nomination.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign,â€ noted former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration official Julian Castro.
But the governor, who earned the potentially racist nickname of â€œCoonmanâ€ in college, is defiant so far, even going so far as to claim, remarkably, that he doesnâ€™t believe that either person in the picture â€” onÂ hisÂ page â€” in his med school yearbook is him. Days into this scandal, heÂ still maintains that.
He has also claimed that he saw the yearbook for the first time on the evening of Feb. 1.Â â€œWeâ€™re going to continue to gather evidence in the coming days and I think all of you will be reassured to see that I am not in that photograph,â€ he said.
While there is no way of knowing who is in the picture at this juncture, itâ€™s worth pointing out that back when the KKK was founded â€” by post-Civil War Democrats in the South â€” and throughout its heyday, Klansman wore hoods precisely so they could hide their identities (and their political affiliation).
Before they wore hoods, Klansman wore other disguises and costumes, all to remain â€œanonymousâ€ and â€œunaccountable,â€Â The New RepublicÂ reported in an expose on the KKK in January 2016. The hood would come later, around 1915 or so, thanks in large part to Hollywoodâ€™s depiction of the Klan in â€œThe Birth of a Nation,â€ the first feature-length film to be screened in the White House (by President Woodrow Wilson, aÂ DemocratÂ and an early â€˜progressiveâ€™).
The magazine noted further:
Anonymity wasnâ€™t quite the point: While the hoods could assure their wearersâ€™ personal anonymity, their force came from declaring membership in a safe, privileged identity that was anything but secret. The hoods made Klan membership cool; they helped rebrand the Klan as a popular, patriotic, money-making, white clubhouse movement. Over the next few decades, the Klan would morph again, going bankrupt and facing tax evasion charges, then reviving, diminished in numbers but ferociously violent, as an anti-black terrorist organization during the Civil Rights Movement. But as the Klan waned or regrouped, the hooded uniform remained, sometimes anonymizing acts of covert violence, sometimes adorning a public, unconcealed, violent group identity.Â
There was a period of decades when Klansmen (and Klanswomen) didnâ€™t have to hide their identities because, thanks to Jim Crow laws and the fact that Democrats owned all levers of power in the South after federal troops departed following Reconstruction, there was no need for it.
Overt acts of domestic terrorism in the form of beatings, lynchings, burnings, and other forms of violence were meted out freely. Only when the Klan began losing support in the 1930s through the 1960s did anonymity become important again.
At this point, itâ€™s not clear whether Gov. Northam is in blackface in the controversial photo or if heâ€™s hiding his identity under a KKK robe and hood â€” which would be convenient for him. What is clear, however, is that just by being on his yearbook page he is identifying with overt racism of the worst kind. He should resign.
A version of this story first appeared at NewsTarget.
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