Ralph Northam In Blackface, But What About The Medical School That Allowed that Ideology?

Today’s cable news carried the headlines about Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam.  Northam is the 73rd Governor of Virginia, being elected in January 2018.  He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School.  He is a physician by occupation having served as an United States Army medical officer from 1984 to 1992.   Northam completed pediatric residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and did a child neurology fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D. C. and John Hopkins Hospital.  Since 1992, Northam had been a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA.

On February 1, 2019, a photo from Northam’s medical school yearbook’s page was released.  It shows an image of a person alleged to be Northham in blackface standing next to a person dressed in the hood and robe of the Ku Klux Klan.  A spokesman for Eastern Virginia Medical School confirmed that the image appeared in its 1984 yearbook.

I watched his press conference and could address Governor Northam’s excuses and inconsistencies, but there is something that weighs on me more.  That something is why would a medical school allow such an environment?  There is a presumptive thought that anyone who wants to practice medicine respects human lives regardless of skin color.  Apparently, Eastern Virginia Medical School did not instill respect for all humans in their curriculum.

The idea that a person needing medical treatment would be dismissed or untreated because of the color of their skin has been well-known in various communities of color.   It was about a month ago that I read professional studies and reports for how Black patients are perceived by White physicians, and more specifically, how the concerns of Black women breast cancer patients are dismissed.  Black women are reported to be diagnosed less with breast cancer, but more die from breast cancer than White women.  (Another post on this subject is in the works.)

The idea that any medical school in America would allow the publishing of a photo representing the domestic terrorist KKK is beyond appalling.  It’s not only about Gov. Northam as much as it that Eastern Virginia Medical School apparently saw nothing wrong with the photo.

Eastern Virginia Medical School published a statement on their website.  In it, they say that they plan to “… convene an urgent meeting of members of our senior leadership and members of our Boards to address this issue holistically for EVMS. We will, of course, include students, residents, faculty, staff, and alumni in this work.”

That is insufficient.  The “urgent meeting” should include patients of color treated by grads of the institution.



Posted on 02/02/2019, in civil rights, politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    My sentiments exactly … ‘The idea that any medical school in America would allow the publishing of a photo representing the domestic terrorist KKK is beyond appalling. It’s not only about Gov. Northam as much as it that Eastern Virginia Medical School apparently saw nothing wrong with the photo.’

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have raised such important issues that are glaring absent from mainstream media accounts, Xena! It is appalling that a medical school allowed this photo to be published in a year book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol,
      I’ve never known of a school that allowed students to put a year book together without the supervision of a teacher. This is why I must place the racism squarely on the shoulders of that medical school. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. worthwhile inquiry!
    in the meantime
    real criminals are
    running the country
    into the ground 🙂


  4. Watching the following day’s press conference was a squirm session. How is it possible that Northman could own up to it on Friday and then decide the following day that the picture wasn’t of him? Who gets confused about posing in black face? And just as he claimed that his memory had been jogged about the yearbook picture he also remembered and owned up to dressing up as Michael Jackson. I don’t know if he’s racist but his skill at lying is on par with a 12 year old trying to explain why he didn’t do his homework.

    But not only does the Eastern Virginia Medical School have an issue the whole state is still challenged. I recently found that Virginia celebrates a state holiday called Lee-Jackson Day which commemorates Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and to add a ridiculous bit of irony its celebrated on the Friday before the Martin Luther King Jr. Monday holiday.


    • Nice meeting you, Paulie. Thanks for bringing out Northam’s contradictions. When it comes to the State of Virginia, I’ve not forgotten how the Loving couple fought for over a decade for their marriage to be declared legal. Neither have I forgotten how Jim Crow existed at NASA as Black women worked to put an American into space. Yes, there is a history of racial bigotry with that state, and seeing that a medical school allowed the photo in its yearbook in the 1980’s speaks volumes. Regarding the Michael Jackson dance contest, it’s my opinion that a White person using black shoe polish on their face intentionally wanted to make a distinction between his race and that of Michael Jackson.

      There are plenty of folks who dance like Michael Jackson who do not think they need to do so in blackface. I remember the following;

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Astounding and scary. Right you are. So many people of color have had scissors sewn up inside them, during surgery. So thorough is your share Xena


    • At least those had surgery. There are so many women of color whose complaints are disregarded. Just to think that I went through 3 years of recurring sinus infections, and 2 different doctors not counting physician assistants. It was treated as an “environmental” allergy with nose sprays and lots of questions about dust and animals. I was also prescribed a med to help relieve itching. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Sept. and began reading up on it is when I became aware of soy and soy allergies. The list of allergies matched those I experienced. I eliminated foods that contain soy for two weeks. My sinuses cleared up. The sneezing and itching stopped. So, catch what a visiting nurse asked me last week? She asked if my doctor gave me allergy tests? (sigh) Had my doctor(S) done that, then I would not have gone through 3 years of havoc and expenses in copays for CT Scans that ENT’s insist on, that always turned up with no findings to explain the issue. It was as if she was saying that unless a doctor verifies the soy allergy, that my experience is not enough for her to believe. She was completely blind to the fact that I could not make my physicians do anything.


      • That is amazing. Truthfully, we are first, our own doctor(s). Doctors years ago, were more analytical than doctors are today. And of course too, today we live in such a drug-prescriptioned world. 😟 Wishing you a wholesome recovery. ❤❤❤❤❤


        • I’m going to take the risk at saying that insurance companies are partially responsible for how doctors now behave. Many doctors adhere to the 15 minute visit. That is why patients with more than issue have it narrowed down to one. It also means there is no time to actually answer questions or give instructions. Now, everything is reduced to assistants using a computer to document why the patient is there. Some systems limit reasons to a limited pull-down menu.

          I remember before HMO’s and PPO’s, there was only hospitalization insurance. Patients paid doctors out-of-pocket and I remember paying $20.00 per visit.

          The lack of spending time with patients, along with many not having healthcare insurance, has left many Americans to self-help. As one nurse stated to me, it’s “healthcare by Google”.

          Thanks so much for your best wishes.


  6. Very good points. That governor should certainly get lambasted for being in that atrocious photo, but the university totally should be culpable. Whoever was involved are totally accomplices.


    • Ospreyshire,
      Exactly! Plus, since it is a medical school, one would think about the message the year book photo is sending to the public about the disrespect of human lives because of the color of their skin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Precisely and that brings a whole other level to this situation. Those pictures would easily violate the Hippocratic Oath which is a core part of being a doctor to begin with!


  7. Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    Xena brings out a subtle point about healthcare and the racism that exists in plain sight.


  8. Great point! I want to reblog but could not find my blog on the drop-down menu. I’ll have to figure it out. It reblogged but not the one I wanted


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