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It’s every professional’s worst nightmare: unjustifiable actions, offensive statements and discriminatory photos from decades past, all brought under public scrutiny in efforts to shatter their high positions of power.
And in the latest turn of events, this nightmare could not be more relevant.
On Feb. 1, a picture of two men portraying an outrageously racist event in history went viral. One man was covered in blackface makeup, while the other dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire. The picture, included in the 1984 Eastern Virginia medical school yearbook, is located on the page of none other than Virginia governor, Ralph Northam.
The racially derogatory photo riled not only Virginians but also citizens across the nation because of the sheer implications of such a horrific deed going undetected for so long in such a pressing field. This discovery of how racist and, ironically, un-Democratic Governor Northam is, has even been confirmed by the accused himself. In an interview done just hours after the photo went viral, Northam confessed to being one of the people in the now-notorious photo, although not specifying which person he was.
Yet, with all of this evidence, including, his very own confession, Northam still went back on his statements just a day later, during another interview. In this interview, he denied all involvement in the photo, even going as far as to say that there was an error on the part of the creators of the yearbook.
Simply unbelievable, right? After all, this was a graduate school yearbook, compiled entirely by full-grown adults pursuing highly respectable careers. So how could such an obvious mix-up be allowed to circulate in the yearbook, of all places?
Clearly, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Or, reaches interviewers, in this case. In numerous interviews since the photo’s public release, Northam maintains his innocence, all while pointing the blame toward vague directions, including his claim about the picture mix-up fiasco involving the yearbook editors of his school.
This evidence did little to sway the skeptical audience. Combining this with the sexual assault claim circulating the internet, many are questioning Northam’s fitness for his position. Requests are coming from top Democratic party leaders, for him to resign.
Dr. William Elwood, a staffer who contributed to the yearbook, told CNN that in order for this picture to get onto Northam’s personal page was for Northam to submit it himself. “They were submitted in a sealed envelope with their name on it to the yearbook staff, to be put on their page,” Elwood told CNN.
This was not the first scandal that Northam stumbled into. Throughout his career, strong opinions regarding abortion and shameless, racist campaigns have already served to undermine his political career. Northam used shame tactics, running highly insulting and racist campaign ads, as well as making insulting tweets regarding his opponents, calling them racist and tyrannical, an obvious sign of his hypocrisy.
Perhaps, this yearbook photo will be the last straw for his colleagues, rivals, and party members proving to be a final lesson for him to learn.
That lesson has no doubt prompted an important question for leaders in prominent positions all over the world: Just how impactful are past actions on present statuses? As it turns out, immensely.
Many recent political figures have brought with them a dirty, possibly incriminating history to the national stage, including now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and even President Donald Trump himself.
Despite common beliefs that “the past is in the past,” one’s past truly does follow him, even decades later, and can wreak great havoc on his otherwise successful career, as shown with Governor Northam. What Northam failed to take into account when committing such offensive actions as those displayed in his school yearbook were the repercussions that stem from making irresponsible decisions in his youth. These decisions reflect on one’s character at a time when they were free to carry out any whim they had without thinking of consequences or reprimands.
For many fellow politicians, this shocking discovery brings up several more doubts about his integrity. After all, if he can campaign against racism all while being a racist himself, what else has he done behind the spotlight of his powerful position as governor?
As political leaders and figureheads of an influential nation, Northam and his colleagues must realize just how important it is to consider all of the citizens of the United States in order to make well-informed decisions of their behalf. These politicians are chosen by the people, with a duty to serve. These politicians are people into whom we instill an immense amount of trust. In light of the recent events, however this basis of trust has been violently shaken.
The importance of educated decision making, especially among lawmakers and enforcers, should be held to higher standards and more scrutiny than other job positions. If there is concrete proof that someone has a history of racist, sexist or other prejudicial acts, these should be investigated quickly and thoroughly. Without close investigation of these incidences, the entire nation’s safety and well-being can be jeopardized because of a single misrepresented leader.