If the governor of Virginia should resign from office for wearing blackface, then so should the state’s attorney general, by his own logic.
Late last week, it was revealed that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page included a photo of a man wearing a KKK robe next to someone wearing blackface. Northam (D) initially apologized for the photo, then later denied that he was one of the people featured. He said that he had worn blackface on another occasion, during a dance competition when he dressed as Michael Jackson.
At the time, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said his fellow Democrat should resign.
“It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our commonwealth, and it is time for him to step down,” Herring said Saturday.
That sentiment was echoed by Virginia and national politicians. The governor wore blackface. He should leave office.
But Wednesday, Herring changed his tune.
Herring, who has said he hopes to run for governor in 2021, acknowledged that he also wore blackface in college. Herring said he dressed as hip-hop artist Kurtis Blow while a student at the University of Virginia nearly 40 years ago.
“That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others,” Herring said. “It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”
In his statement, Herring did not say he would resign. But if he thinks Northam is unfit, Herring should be, too.
The state’s black lawmakers made a similar argument soon after news about Northam went public. In a statement about the governor released this week, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus wrote: “He has irrevocably lost the faith and the trust of the people he was elected to serve. . . . The damage that has been done by these revelations is irreparable."
That Herring seems to think blackface is disqualifying for others but not him displays a lack of awareness of what it means to be a public servant. And it’s particularly troubling since Herring represents the state’s legal system. Black Americans across the country have been victims of a racist criminal justice and judicial system for generations. Having the state’s top lawyer be an individual who has displayed racism sends a terrible message.
The attorney general should abide by the same standards he applied to his state’s top official less than a week ago.