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No one can know what Gov. Northam thinks based on a 35-year-old racist photo

No one can know what Gov. Northam thinks based on a 35-year-old racist photo
Zyahna Bryant of Charlottesville, Va., holds a sign at a protest Feb. 4 calling for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign. (Shelby Lum / Associated Press)

To the editor: Whether Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam should resign is a complicated issue, because judging what other human beings know is a fraught undertaking. (“Stop with the shifting stories, Gov. Northam, and explain yourself,” Opinion, Feb. 4)

For instance, millions of intelligent, educated, American men, especially those who would never dream of committing sexual harassment, are unaware that it is experienced at some time by virtually every woman. We women tend to think, “How could they not know?” But they really do not know.

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Hence, given the massive failure of our education system to counteract the American sin of racism, maybe it’s really true that a 25-year-old medical school student in the 1980s might not have known that humiliating racism is experienced by virtually every African American, though not from every white person. He might not have realized then how profoundly wrong it is to perform in blackface.

Understandably, Northam has forfeited the trust of many. Still, possibly after 35 years, the real question should be, “What is in his heart now that he knows better?”

Mary Nabours, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Around 1964, as an 8-year-old, I was thinking about joining my Roman Catholic parish’s Brownie troop. I went to one meeting, saw these white girls putting on blackface for some sort of play and knew I wanted no part of it.

I still recall this vividly.

So how could someone who was an adult in 1984 not recall, immediately, whether or not he ever wore blackface next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan robe, or vice versa? This isn’t the kind of thing you have to think about or study a photo to determine.

You did or didn’t do it, and you know which it is.

Kay M. Gilbert, Manhattan Beach

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To the editor: It’s good to see Sandy Banks weigh in on the mess created by the Virginia governor. As she consistently demonstrated during her years as a Los Angeles Times columnist, her comments were clear-eyed, measured and thoughtful.

I recall many of her long-ago columns reflecting her strength, grace and courage in the face of difficult personal challenges.

Her message to Northam reflects her wisdom and sensitivity to the racial issues that the governor clumsily exacerbated. He would be well served by reading and heeding Banks’ words.

Larry Lasseter, Brea

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To the editor: Are there any other progressive Democrats like me who are alarmed by this hysterical pile-on?

There was a racist photo on Northam’s yearbook page that he claims he doesn’t know about and is not a part of. Who can surely say otherwise?

The photograph was on his page in his medical school yearbook 35 years ago, and his career record on race has been good. One questionable photo should not ruin a man’s life and career.

Hang in there, Gov. Northam. Don’t become a victim of knee-jerk political correctness like former Sen. Al Franken.

Arlen Grossman, Monterey

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