For the past week or so the media has had a field day tearing down the life of Virginia's governor. The hysteria and insistence from many that he must resign has been created because of a 35-year-old photograph of a person in black face purported to be Governor Ralph Northam from his 1984 college days.

Let's move back even further in time. In the early 1960's I attended the University of Vermont. At that time the big event of the year, the winter carnival, was called Cake Walk. The highlight of the festive weekend was "Walking fo' de Cake". This consisted of two males (in today's standards probably – sexist) from each fraternity appearing in black face who would do a precision high kicking dance routine. I'm sure many pictures of these events exist to this day in yearbooks and in the memories of former UVM alumni. Are we to condemn all those who participated as being racist and unfit for public office?

Let's travel back further in time to the 1920's. At that time the most famous and highest paid entertainer was Al Jolson ("The Jazz Singer"), a white man who appeared in black face. Was he a racist?

This is history and was considered acceptable entertainment. Remember dressing up as witches and ghosts and pirates or superheros for Halloween? This was entertainment, not racism and certainly not sexist as males and females dressed up as each other – no problem/history cannot be changed, but we can move forward.

What's happened to us? Nothing more than a changing standard of acceptability. The damaging part of this current hysteria is ignoring the lives these people have grown into and led as upstanding and respected members of society. We should evaluate the lives these people are leading today, and their accomplishments, rather than what might have occurred 30-plus years ago.

Alan Andrews

Lake Placid


(1) comment


While the photo was ill advised, far too much has been made of it to the point where it's been a headliner for almost a week. Considering the many problems with this current administration, Governor Northam is a minor issue. But he makes a good deflector for the right wing echo chamber.

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