Amid Virginia’s political mess involving blackface and sexual assault accusations, a group of Black elected officials have signed onto a letter demanding that Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring resign, BuzzFeed is reporting.
The stinging missive dated Feb. 11 notes, “We have all watched with astonishment and grave disappointment as the integrity of our state was compromised as you both admitted to participating in blackface on at least one occasion.”
The letter continues, “As you are now aware, blackface was a derogatory and racist practice of white performers some 200 years ago used to mock enslaved Africans during minstrel shows. It was, has, and will always be offensive.”
The two elected officials had not responded as of Tuesday morning.
The letter comes days after a photo surfaced from Northam’s medical school yearbook page showing one person in blackface and another person wearing Ku Klux Klan robes. Northam has said he does not remember the photo but has admitted wearing blackface. In the aftermath, Herring also has admitted to wearing blackface in his past.
The letter does not demand that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, accused of sexual assault by two women in recent days, resign. Fairfax is Black.
“We also acknowledge the seriousness of the matter with our lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax,” the letter reads. “Allegations of sexual assault are received with the utmost respect. Our thoughts and prayers are with (accusers) Dr. (Vanessa) Tyson as well as Meredith Watson. Mr. Fairfax as well as many others have called for a full investigation into this matter, and we are joining that list. If Mr. Fairfax is guilty of any of the allegations made against him, he needs to resign from his position immediately.”
Those signing the letter include Wes Bellamy, Charlottesville City Councilor, who told BuzzFeed that if the officials don’t respond to the demands, Northam can expect for the group to make his life “hell.”
“This is my friend,” Bellamy told the news organization. “That’s why it hurts.”
In addition to the Northam and Herring resignations, the group requests:
- Mandatory meetings between Black and Indigenous Americans in Virginia and Northam and Herring
- The creation of a Business Equity Fund to boost minority owned businesses in Virginia
- That Northam “state emphatically” that all confederate statues and memorials will be removed from the state
- That Herring call for decriminalization of marijuana