The shocking news broke Friday night that Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, had posed for a picture in his medical school yearbook in which both a man in blackface and another man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform are shown.
Northam said Friday night that he is “deeply sorry” about the picture, which was published in the 1984 edition of the yearbook at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Per WTVR, the governor also said that “I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work.”
The governor has not said whether he was the man in blackface or the Klan outfit, nor has he explained any backstory of when the picture was taken or how it came to be included in his medical school yearbook.
The NAACP has already called on Northam to resign as governor, per the Hill, as have the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and Virginia’s Republican Party.
Someone else is eyeing the situation: Singer and political activist John Legend.
“All I wanna know is the line of succession in VA,” Legend said in a tweet Friday.”What a poetic ending it would be for the black Lt Gov to take over for the KKK cos-play governor.”
According to Virginia’s constitution, per attorney Max Kennerly, the lieutenant governor would take over the governorship in the event of the governor resigning. The current lieutenant governor of Virginia is Justin Fairfax, who is indeed African-American. Fairfax would become the second black governor of the state, which contained the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The first black governor of Virginia — and the first black person elected governor of any U.S. state — was L. Douglas Wilder, who was elected governor of the state in 1989. When Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, he became just the second African-American elected to any statewide office in Virginia, after Wilder.
BREAKING: Gov. Ralph Northam yearbook page shows blackface and Klan photohttps://t.co/6A89ejp5Ho— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) February 1, 2019
Legend has often been vocal about political causes, both during the Obama and Trump presidencies. He discussed his reasons for his outspokenness in a CNBC interview last year.
“Honestly, it’s probably not good for business. It’s probably alienating some people and I understand that, but I think it’s worth the risk for me,” the singer said. “Because I care enough about these issues that I cannot just be silent. I care about me being an honest person, me being an authentic person, me living in my truth, and part of my truth is caring about these issues and speaking out about them when I care. It would be too hard for me to be silent about it. I just couldn’t do it. It’s not in my constitution.”