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Old 02-02-2019, 09:23 PM
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I accept that Northam is not a racist today, and as far as we know, he might never have been a racist. It doesn't really matter; the offense is still serious enough that he needs to resign for the good of the Commonwealth.

If he came out and owned up to it and said "It was an insensitive joke -- much like Prince Harry's decision to wear a Nazi costume at a Halloween party. I apologize, full stop." I could almost accept that, except for the fact that he really ought to have known better, given his age and given the fact that he grew up in a culture with very clear racial dividing lines.

Let's step back and consider this: it's a blatantly racist photograph, not in his high school yearbook picture, not even in his college fraternity yearbook picture, but his medical school yearbook. He's about to enter the professional world, and he thought somehow that this was acceptable to participate in. We're talking about knowingly, willingly participating in a picture that makes light of an organization that murdered black people by the thousands from 1866 - 1979. I doubt that it's the case that he had no say at all in what photographs he got 'tagged' in. He presumably thought it was okay, that it's just a joke, and that it's funny and doesn't matter. He's just edgy, politically incorrect, I guess.

But why didn't it seem to matter? What made him think that it was just an edgy joke that nobody would care about? The reason it didn't matter is that in 1980s Virginia, the opinions of black people didn't really matter. There probably weren't that many black med students in his program and in his formative years, Virginia was still segregated. It was just harmless humor among mostly white folk. In 2019 the opinions of black people probably matter a little more now than they did then, fortunately, but we shall see.