Just weeks after Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) had racist yearbook photos resurface and admitted to wearing blackface, his wife Pam Northam is facing criticisms for her own racially insensitive actions.
As IJR previously reported, the governor denied that he was in the racist yearbook photo that depicted two men, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and one in blackface. While he claimed that he was not in the photo, he did admit to wearing blackface as part of a costume when he competed in a dance competition as Michael Jackson.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Virginia’s first lady followed in her husband’s footsteps. During a tour of the governor’s mansion, Northam handed several black eighth-graders bolls of cotton and told them to “imagine being an enslaved person,” according to a report by the Washington Post.
Leah Dozier Walker, a state Education Department official, whose daughter was at the mansion during the incident, wrote a letter describing the offensive incident to the Northam and state lawmakers, claiming the incident proves that Virginia’s first family has not learned from their past actions.
“The Governor and Mrs. Northam have asked the residents of the Commonwealth to forgive them for their racially insensitive past actions. But the actions of Mrs. Northam, just last week, do not lead me to believe that this Governor’s office has taken seriously the harm and hurt they have caused African Americans in Virginia or that they are deserving of our forgiveness.”
In response to the outrage, Northam released a statement, saying, “I regret that I have upset anyone.”
She claimed her goal was to “thoughtfully and honestly” explain some of the history of slavery, especially as it relates to the slaves that served in the governor’s mansion.
“I am still committed to chronicling the important history of the Historic Kitchen, and will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future,” Northam added.
Pam Northam had been painted as the voice of reason in the governor’s mansion, especially after it appeared as though she stopped the governor from demonstrating his moonwalk during a press conference, moments after he admitted to wearing blackface.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 2, 2019
Now, the first lady’s controversy has reignited calls for Governor Northam to step down. Although most prominent Democrats called on Northam to resign, he has shown no signs that he will leave, instead announcing that he would be going on a “reconciliation tour” to learn more about black history.
However, as IJR previously reported, that tour is off to a rocky start. The governor had to cancel his first stop after students at Virginia Union University, a historically black college, asked him not to speak.