Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wore blackface at a college party in 1980, he said today, possibly derailing his path to the governor’s office. Herring considered running against embattled Gov. Ralph Northam in the 2017 election and was expected to run to succeed Northam in 2021.
All those plans have been disrupted by Northam’s alleged appearance in a yearbook photo that supposedly shows him wearing either blackface or a Klan costume. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would succeed Northam if he stepped down, is battling sexual assault allegations. And now Herring adds to the mix with his admission.
“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said in an emailed statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.
“This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.
That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” Herring said.
“That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt,” he said. In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but no matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.”