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February 8, 2019




Friday, February 8, 2019


A statement by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Virginia is facing a political crisis with its three top state executives all in trouble, but we should not treat the men the same because their cases are different and require separate evaluations and responses.

First, in the case of Gov. Ralph Northam. Initially, the governor appeared to confirm that he was one of the two men posing in a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, although he did not say whether he was the man in black face or the one in the white robes and hood of the KKK.

Gov. Northam apologized for the hurt and shame he had brought people of Virginia. But at a press conference the next day, he completely changed his tune. He denied he was even in the photo. He did confess, however, that he appeared in blackface that same year at a dance contest in San Antonio – “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

So, it appears that Gov. Northam may have initially lied.  Then there’s the question of how do you remember the San Antonio event so clearly when you say you just put “a little shoe polish” on your face but don’t remember painting your entire face completely black and standing next to a person in the regalia of the Klan? 

Finally, he has not handled the entire situation with the intelligence and wisdom to justify his remaining in office.  He has lost his moral authority to govern and the trust of the people of Virginia. Therefore, he should resign.

In the case of Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax, a thorough investigation is warranted. He is being accused by California Professor Dr. Vanessa Tyson of sexually assaulting her in 2004, long before he became the number two elected official in Virginia.

She has made public a detailed letter describing what she says happened. Her allegations must be taken seriously.  On the other hand, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax denies the accusation. He says their encounter in his Boston hotel room was consensual. His statements too must be taken seriously.

His public handling of the matter has been mixed, but he must be assumed innocent until determined otherwise.  He should not be forced to resign based on an accusation alone.  What is needed is a legitimate investigation to find, review and evaluate the facts as they make themselves known and, on that basis, we can then make a judgment as to whether he should continue in office.

Lastly, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted that he too wore blackface when he was a 19-year-old college student. He and his friends went to a party and imitated some of the rap singers they were listening to such as Kurtis Blow. 

So far, there is nothing else that has surfaced in his past; he has admitted that what he did was wrong; he seems sincere and able to understand the seriousness of what he did; has said it’s the worst thing he did in his life; and has spent 40 years trying to make amends. 

His public modeling of how to handle such a revelation merits his being granted the possibility of redemption while continuing in office.

The crisis in Virginia gives all of us – civic, media, religious and political leaders – the opportunity to model how we should handle this situation as well as other difficult and painful issues that may surface in the future.



Frank Watkins


Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justice around the world.