Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. (AP)

I am a black woman who has lived in Northern Virginia for 35 years. My father’s family fled Charlotte County in south-central Virginia more than a century ago after generations that date back to the 18th century to seek a better, fairer life.

No matter how repugnant one might find Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) medical school yearbook page, it reflects a reality that black Americans know and understand. The Jim Crow South and its celebration of the culture of enslavement and abuse were and are pernicious and continue to run through the lifeblood of everyone who has lived within this reality. Mr. Northam is no exception. This is why we must remove public monuments to those who fought against the nation on behalf of slavery. As long as monuments to slavery remain prominent, we all retain the taint of its legacy.

Mr. Northam apologized for his behavior. He must take the next steps as governor to explain why he, the Eastern Virginia Medical School and its dean thought this sort of behavior was acceptable. The conversation has started; let’s continue it.

Cathleen Lewis, Alexandria