Ticking time bomb US politicians’ attic: The yearbook
EXPERTS SAY BEHAVIOUR CRITICISED TODAY USED TO BE UNREMARKABLE
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