Virginia governor Ralph Northam hailed an “awakening” on “black oppression” on Wednesday in the wake of the George Floyd demonstrations, while again denying he appeared in a yearbook photo featuring a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan regalia.
“There’s been an awakening of really what Black oppression is,” Northam told NBC’s Lester Holt. “A lot of people that look like me have learned a lot, have listened, have seen the pain that is in this country, that is in Virginia in the last few weeks.”
Northam also voiced support for reforming police departments and removing statues of Americans who served in the Confederacy.
“I said [in 2017]: These statues need to come down. They need to be either in museums or cemeteries or somewhere out of the public, where they’re not symbols, where they’re not glorifying the institution of slavery, where they’re not glorifying this divisiveness,” Northam said.
Northam apologized in 2019 after his medical school yearbook page was revealed online, showing a picture of two men, one in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan attire. The governor did not reveal whether he was the individual in blackface or impersonating a KKK member.
Northam subsequently claimed that he did not remember being in the photograph, although he admitted that he wore blackface to impersonate Michael Jackson in a 1984 dance competition.