Tick­ing time bomb US politi­cians’ at­tic: The year­book


DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - WORLD - —AFP

Wash­ing­ton: Hid­den away in dusty draw­ers or stuffed in boxes long for­got­ten in the at­tic, a dan­ger lurks for US politi­cians: their year­books.

Of­ten fea­tur­ing the frat boy hu­mour -- or worse -- of their youth­ful selves, the col­lec­tions of old pho­tos and writ­ings are com­ing back to haunt Amer­ica’s elected lead­ers. The lat­est high-pro­file vic­tim has been Vir­ginia’s Demo­cratic Gov­er­nor Ralph Northam, whose med­i­cal school year­book fea­tured a pho­to­graph of a per­son in black­face next to an­other dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.

As pres­sure mounted on him to quit, one of the men in line to re­place him, Vir­ginia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral Mark Her­ring, ad­mit­ted that he too had painted his face black in his school days.

The scan­dal came just months af­ter Brett Ka­vanaugh al­most saw his nom­i­na­tion to the Supreme Court de­railed by al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault when he was in high school, a charge that led to his school year­book be­ing gone over with fine-toothed comb.

Year­books -- relics of a predig­i­tal age when peo­ple wrote post­cards and took pho­tos on ac­tual cam­eras, rather than post­ing on so­cial me­dia -- fea­ture pic­tures of class­mates and par­ties, school trips, fra­ter­ni­ties and mo­ments of sport­ing glory. Stu­dents usu­ally have a per­sonal page where they pose with their best friends, rem­i­nisce about their school days, or fea­ture ded­i­ca­tions or verse.

White coats, white hoods

In the 1984 year­book of the East­ern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School, there are plenty of pic­tures of young in­terns in white doc­tors’ coats, smil­ing at each oth­ers’ wait­ing room quips.

But there are also images of

the white robes and pointed hoods used by the KKK, a racist or­gan­i­sa­tion that ter­rorised black com­mu­ni­ties in the Amer­i­can South.

Northam’s page fea­tures a pic­ture of some­one in KKK at­tire, stand­ing next to an­other per­son in black­face, the makeup used once used to mock and belit­tle African Amer­i­cans.

Af­ter ini­tially ad­mit­ting he

was in the pic­ture, the gov­er­nor then de­nied he was one of those in the image.

He has re­sisted mount­ing pres­sure from his own party to re­sign, yet seems un­likely to sur­vive in his post for long.

The scan­dal has prompted a wave of scru­tiny of year­books from past decades, bring­ing other sim­i­larly racist ma­te­rial to light.


Vir­ginia Gov­er­nor Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 East­ern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School year­book

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