Some black Christians who once supported Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam want him to resign

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks with black constituents in this 2017 photo. |

Although embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s predominantly black home church and pastor say they are willing to give him “another chance” to show he has repented for wearing blackface in the past, some black Christians who once supported him say the only path to redemption is to resign.

Shortly after Northam became the subject of national headlines last week for expressing support for a now tabled proposal in the Virginia legislature that would allow abortions up to 40 weeks of pregnancy, he began facing a bipartisan call to resign. A 1984 yearbook page had surfaced bearing photos of Northam. The page also included a photo of a person wearing blackface next to another individual wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Northam initially admitted he was in the racist photo and apologized for it. At a press conference on Saturday however, he said it wasn’t him at all, but confessed to wearing blackface for a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas where he pretended to be Michael Jackson.

"I had the shoes, I had a glove and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under, or on my cheeks," Northam told reporters. "The reason I used a very little bit is because, I don't know if anybody has ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off."

Attendees at Jerusalem Baptist, a predominantly black church in a small town outside Richmond, expressed shock over the photo and concern over Northam’s changing statements, in an NPR report.

Ralph Northam, Barack Obama
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and former President Barack Obama. |

"Thirty-some years ago is a long time, but it was in '84," church member Wendy Hobbs said. "It was a post-civil rights era. No one should've been making fun [of] another race or trying to make a joke out of people's fears of the Ku Klux Klan or the blackface."

Jeroline Harris, another churchgoer who voted for Northam, said she watched his press conference on Saturday and dismissed it as a “big mess.”

"I think that he'd made a really big mess of the whole situation," she said.

"He really should not have had that press conference. ... What he said Friday in his apology should have just stood," she said. "He admit it. So how can you rethink less than 24 hours later, 'Well, that wasn't me'? So how the people going to really accept this?”

"We all have a past, and we all can be forgiven for our past," he said. "But the question is, when it comes to leadership, is it your past or is it your present? And I think that's the question that we don't really know."

The church’s pastor, Emanuel Harris, said while he believes Northam can be forgiven for his racist behavior, he is not certain he should be allowed to continue to lead.

"We all have a past, and we all can be forgiven for our past," he said. "But the question is, when it comes to leadership, is it your past or is it your present? And I think that's the question that we don't really know."

A press statement from the Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Tuesday called on Northam to step down if he is sorry for his past actions and allow Justin E. Fairfax, the lieutenant governor, to replace him. Fairfax, however, is facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2004. He has characterized those allegations as a “well-timed act of political skullduggery,” according to The New York Times.

“There is no excuse for Governor Northam not releasing this information himself and then publicly repenting for this demeaning and offensive act. He should have done this before, during or immediately after the Democratic gubernatorial primary or the statewide election,” the AME group argued.

“If Governor Northam is genuinely sorry and wants to move forward with integrity, it is time for him to step down as Governor of Virginia and allow the citizens of Virginia to begin the healing process under the leadership of the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia,” the group added.

On Wednesday, Fairfax who is a descendant of a Virginia slave named Simon Fairfax, who was emancipated in 1798, posted a photo on Facebook of him praying and quoting Genesis 50:20.

‪“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive,” the Scripture says.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.