Virginia Governor Ralph Northam—who admitted to being in blackface in a yearbook photo, then changed his mind and said it wasn’t him, then admitted he did do blackface in a Michael Jackson dance contest—recently went on CBS to talk with reporter Gayle King about what he has “learned” in the past few weeks.
So what has Northam, who refuses to step down as governor and is a 59-year-old grown man, found out about the world? So many things, according to Northam.
Northam has learned that he has “white privilege”:
GAYLE KING: What have you learned that you didn’t know before?
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well, several things, starting with I was born in white privilege and that has implications to it… It is much different the way a white person such as myself is treated in this country versus—
GAYLE KING: Did you not know that you were born into white privilege?
GOV. NORTHAM: I knew I was, Ms. King, but I didn’t realize really the powerful implications of that. And again talking to a lot of friends, that has come crystal clear to me this week. I have also learned why the use of blackface is so offensive and yes, I knew it in the past. But reality has really set in.
Northam learned about slavery:
GAYLE KING: I know this has been a very difficult week for you in the state of Virginia. So where would you like to begin?
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well it has been a difficult week. And you know if you look at Virginia’s history we are now at the 400 year anniversary, just 90 miles from here in 1619. The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort what we call now Fort Monroe and while—
GAYLE KING: Also known as slavery.
Northam learned that it was wrong to consider moonwalking when talking about how he put on blackface to dress up as Michael Jackson, although he insists he wasn’t actually about to moonwalk. He also learned to appreciate his wife:
GAYLE KING: For many of us watching, it look like you were about to actually demonstrate the moonwalk… Were you thinking about showing off your moonwalking skills?
GOV. NORTHAM: No, because I don’t have those at age 59, but I will tell you, Gayle, I regret that. This is a serious moment. And whether it was a nervous laugh or whatever, it was inappropriate.
GAYLE KING: So you weren’t thinking about doing it when you looked over at that the floor you were not thinking about doing a walk.
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: No.
GAYLE KING: Many people credit Pam. Pam, your lovely wife for stepping in.
GOV. NORTHAM: Well let me just tell you—
GAYLE KING: Another reason to be nicer on Valentine’s Day for you, sir.
GOV NORTHAM: Gayle, let me just tell you that as we say, I married way up and I would not be sitting here having this conversation if it wasn’t for my wife of 33 years.
Northam has learned that he has “courage” and “a moral compass” and also that he is a doctor, which is why he is not stepping down:
GAYLE KING: And why you think you still deserve this job and so many people are calling for you to step down?
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well again we- we have worked very hard. We’ve had a good first year. And and I’m a leader. I’ve been in some very difficult situations. Life and death situations taking care of sick children. And right now—
GAYLE KING: Because you’re a doctor, yes?
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: —right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere. I have learned from this. I have a lot more to learn. But we’re in a unique opportunity now.
Congratulations to Northam for his tremendous growth from white man to white man.