By the time you read this, the Democratic Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam, might have resigned.
Almost every other living Democrat is calling on Gov. Northam to do just that after a photo from his medical school yearbook emerged showing two people side-by-side, one in Blackface and one in what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan mask and robe.
This all started on Friday when, the editor of the website bigleaguepolitics.com told the Washington Post he received a tip from “a concern citizen” that this photo existed and the guy in Blackface was, in fact, Northam.
The Post did its due diligence and determined the photo was, in fact, from Northam’s year book from the Eastern Virginia Medical School – and no, that is not a medical school located on an island in the Caribbean.
Northam, doing his Dr. Leonard McCoy act: “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not an attorney” immediately copped to being in the photo – although he was unclear about whether he was the dope in Blackface or the moron in the KKK outfit.
By the next day Northam had apparently consulted a real lawyer and reversed himself saying he wasn’t at all certain he was in that photo even though the photo appeared on the yearbook page devoted to him.
This remined me of former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner’s uncertainty as to how a photo of his, uh, you know, ended up on his smartphone and in a text.
Weiner, a serial sexter, ended up in jail. Northam probably will not.
Northam decided he would ride out the storm by holding a press conference. In that press conference when he said he was not in the photo, he said he remembered putting black shoe polish on his face when imitating Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.
A reporter asked if he could still do the moonwalk. The Governor – at the press conference – appeared to begin showing off that skill when his wife intervened and suggested that maybe showing what a fun guy he was when mimicking Black people during a presser when he was denying mimicking Black people might not be the best course of action.
White people putting on Black makeup is nothing new. Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson from the vaudeville era. Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn. Judy Garland in a 1938 movie. Maybe the longest-running Whites-in-Blackface routine was the radio and TV show, Amos ‘n’ Andy which was set in Harlem, starred two White guys named Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, and ran an astonishing 32 years from 1928 to 1960.
And, of course, Ralph Northam in his med school yearbook.
Democrats were quick to the microphones and cameras demanding Northam resign on Friday and Saturday. Then, by Sunday, cooler Democratic heads prevailed and they figured out a way to blame this whole thing on Republicans.
The current line is: Even though Northam is a Democrat, the Republicans are the true bad guys because they put up with R racists all the time. As long as the national spotlight is trained on the Commonwealth of Virginia anyway, it is convenient (and, alas, true) to remind fellow cable chat show panelists that Donald Trump couldn’t find his way clear to condemn the racially charged, and lethal, demonstration in Charlottesville in August of 2017.
It is not clear to me that this Blackface thing exists in any other country. That is not to say racism doesn’t exist. Ask a Muslim in France. Or ask a Jew just about anywhere in Northern Europe.
A massive CNN study of Anti-Semitism in Europe found that up to a quarter of those surveyed believed that 20% of the world’s population is Jewish. A Pew study indicates that is wrong by a factor of 100: About 0.2% of the world’s population is Jewish.
Back to Ralph Northam.
Here’s a difference between Anti-Semitic and Anti-Black racism: In 1984 no one, anywhere in the United States, would have thought that having a photo put into their yearbook mimicking a Jew would have been acceptable.
Even in 1984, people still thought – people graduating as physicians from an American medical school – still thought – that dressing up as a Black person or as a Ku Klux Klan member was funny.
It never was.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The WaPo story on how the Northam photo became an issue; a clip from an early Eddie Cantor film; Amos ‘n’ Andy; and how the Ku Klux Klan got its name.