(WMAL) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Saturday he will not resign and was not one of the people in what he called a “racist” and “horrific” photo on his page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. He did, however, admit he smeared black shoe polish on his face when he dressed as Michael Jackson after he graduated in 1984 – the same year the yearbook came out – for a dance contest.
This was an about-face from Friday when Northam wrote in a statement: “Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.”
The governor said after he made that statement he reflected with his family and classmates and decided he was not the person in blackface in the photo nor was he the person in the KKK outfit.
Northam said he didn’t buy the yearbook and saw the picture for the first time Friday.
“I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe,” Northam said.
He acknowledged that the picture hurt a lot of people and said he’s not ready to ask Virginians for their forgiveness but is asking for the opportunity to demonstrate that the person he was isn’t the man he is today.
“If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead,” Northam said. He went on to say, “I cannot in good conscience chose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
Those voices are continuing to urge the governor to leave his post.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus wrote in a statement it is amplifying its call for the governor to resign.
“Our confidence in his ability to govern for the over 8 million Virginians has been eviscerated,” the statement said.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson Tweeted his organization stands by its call for Northam’s resignation.
While the governor admitted to putting shoe polish on his face as part of a costume, he did not characterize it as blackface.
“We are deeply disappointed in Governor @RalphNortham’s failure to take accountability today,” Johnson Tweeted. “Using shoe polish on his face in any form to mimic Michael Jackson showcases his lack of awareness of the discrimination against Black people.”
Northam said he will continue to lead the commonwealth unless he feels he’s reached a point where he can’t.
Copyright 2019 WMAL.com All Rights Reserved. PHOTO: Eastern Virginia Medical School/Virginian-Pilot