Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam‘s alma mater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, apparently sure loves it some blackface. More photos from one of the school’s yearbooks showing the racist practice have surfaced less than a week after Northam first denied and then admitted he had worn blackface while he was a student there decades ago.
Michael Breiner, the Discipline Chair for Surgery and Associate Professor for Anatomical Sciences and Surgery at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, is under fire for several photos of himself in blackface. His excuse? He loved Diana Ross.
“It was a Halloween party,” Breiner told WFXR. “I am a big fan of Diana Ross. I love the Supremes.” He also added, “I have a lot of great African-American friends. I still do. And they gave me their blessing that this would not offend them.” Breiner then gave his version of an apology. “Do I regret it now? Yeah, because it’s a different time. This was 35 years ago.”
The caption in the 1985 yearbook read “who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to Medical School.” See the new clip below:
As for Northam, his racist photo was published a year before, in 1984. Originally, the governor apologized but now he is saying he wasn’t even in the photo. He also said he has only darkened his skin for a Michael Jackson costume.
According to CNN, Northam said on Saturday, “I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo. This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam.” He continued, “I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past. I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
In the bizarre hour-long press conference, he did say he once darkened his skin for a Michael Jackson costume, “I had the shoes, I had a glove, and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my — or on my — cheeks. And the reason I used a very little bit is because, I don’t know if anybody’s ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off…. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”
The pressure is on for him to resign. If he does, Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor, will become governor, which would make him Virginia’s first Black governor since 1989.