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Gov. Northam tries to make up for racist photo by reading black authors, focusing agenda on race


He's determined not to step down

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (right) and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (left). Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) just won't resign, no matter how many of his fellow Democrats call for him to do so.

As they begin to accept that reality, Northam's team has started looking for ways to salvage his diminished governorship. According to BuzzFeed News, they have some rather shameless ideas so far.

To recap, Northam is dealing with a scandal caused by a photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. The photo shows one man in blackface, and another man wearing a full Ku Klux Klan costume.

Northam admitted and later denied that he was in the photo. But he did volunteer that he once put shoe polish on his face to dress up like Michael Jackson for a dance contest on a separate occasion.

As Rev. Al Sharpton phrased it, "It's tantamount to saying 'I didn't rob Wells Fargo bank, but I did rob Bank of America.' Well, you're still a bank robber."

How does he fix this?

Northam and his team are going the obvious, pandering route to fix his image. From Buzzfeed News:

His office has begun to explore how it might recalibrate Northam's legislative agenda to focus closely on race and equity, sources close to the governor tell BuzzFeed News. ... Northam's policy team is looking at crafting a set of proposals based on the premise that the governor's mistakes have rendered him keenly aware of inequity and the lack of justice faced by black Virginians 400 years after the first African people arrived in the Commonwealth, at Point Comfort, in 1619.

That's the first idea. Try to convince people that because his racist 1984 photo has been discovered, now he understands race inequality in a more meaningful way.

Next, his advisers are going to make him read things written by and about black people:

Additionally, his advisers have assigned the governor homework: He's begun to read Alex Haley's "Roots", and "The Case for Reparations," the seminal essay in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Northam would probably be under even more pressure to resign if the lieutenant governor wasn't facing multiple sexual assault allegations and the attorney general wasn't also dealing with a blackface scandal. Instead, he will attempt to weather the storm.

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