Opinion

America’s Obsession with Blackface

OPINION | By Nehemiah Frank, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Why is acceding to the people’s wishes a problematic task for Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia?

Perhaps it’s the system of white supremacy that protects him from giving up his privilege card.

On Friday, February 1, 2019, a disturbing photograph, displaying two White males — one in ‘blackface’ and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe — surfaced on national news.

The picture printed and approved by Eastern Virginia Medical Academy appeared on Northam’s 1984 yearbook page (seen below).

On Friday, the Virginia governor apologized to the Commonwealth and nation for appearing in the racist photograph.

Within 24 hours of admitting that he was one of two individuals seen in the photograph, Northam completely denied being in the picture — this after members of his, own, party, the NAACP and the Virginia Black Caucus began calling for the governor’s resignation.

“We no longer believe he can effectively serve as the governor of Virginia and that he must resign,” Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and Representative Robert C. Scott, all Democrats and two, former governors themselves are calling for Northam’s resignation as well.

In Saturday’s press conference, Northam told reporters that he is only guilty of wearing blackface during that same year, admitting that he applied black shoe polish to his face while dressed as Micheal Jackson for a Halloween costume contest.

Somehow the idea that wearing blackface while dressed up as the late King of Pop would also be distasteful and racially insensitive to Black Americans  didn’t seem to click in the then neurologist student’s brain.

Northam’s White male privilege showed in that Saturday interview when he made the conscious decision to continue his governorship after being outed.

The governor joked if he should do the moonwalk after a reporter asked if he still knew how. His wife, standing beside him, quickly intervened, saving what was left of his sinking Titanic of a press conference.

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Governor Ralph Northam allegedly dressed as Blackface or a Klan’s Man. He has denied being either person in the photo. 


While the nation focuses on Northam, let me turn your attention to another Blackface incident that took place at Christian Victory in Sacramento, California during a school presentation. 

The superintended of the school John Huffman received so much backlash when a former student of the school gave a presentation while wearing Blackface. Huffman was forced to address the matter to school parents and national media outlets. 

Huffman wrote an apology letter to parents, stating:

“Last Thursday our elementary chapel speaker dressed up as a Central African native woman in order to tell the life story of missionary David Livingston and his work in Africa in the late 1800s.

In an effort to bring authenticity to her role, she wore a typical native dress and headdress. She also used makeup to darken her skin tone on her arms, shoulders, and face. I was wrong to allow the use of makeup no matter how innocent the intentions as it has offended some of my students and parents,” he wrote. “I should have anticipated that this could be offensive, and I apologized to my students and parents asking to be forgiven for hurting them.”

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19-year-old former Victory Christian School student dressed in Blackface during School performance. 


Then, there’s the Florida Secretary of State, Michael Ertel was forced to resign after photos from 2005 surfaced of Ertel wearing Blackface while dressed as a female ‘Katerina victim’.

“I did something stupid 14 years ago, which presented someone from my past with an opportunity for revenge,”

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Michael Ertel dressed in Blackface as ‘Katrina Victim.’


Most recently, the Attorney General of Virginia Mark R. Herring admitted to also wearing Blackface as an undergraduate students at the University of Virginia during the ’80s. 

“Because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup,”

Herring dressed stated in a press conference that he dressed as the rapper Kurtis Blow with a white wig. 

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Virginia Attorney General Michael Ertel


At the beginning of January 2019, the University of Oklahoma experienced two Blackface incidents.

One student, a member of the Tri-Delta sorority, used the N-word on social media while wearing Blackface.  

Three years ago, the school suspended a fraternity for singing a racist song that has allegedly been passed down through the years. “There will never be a n-gg-r in SAE,” SAE standing for Sigma Alpha Epsilon a mostly white male fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. 

Last week the two OU students withdrew their enrollment at the school after they were outed for wearing Blackface on campus. 

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If this is America acting great, I would hate to see what America being great again actually looks and feels like. They are obsessed with it! 


Nehemiah FrankNehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America for the school choice movement. He’s a blogger for EdPost and a CAB Editorial Member at the Tulsa World. He’s been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a school administrator at Sankofa School of Creative and Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in spring of 2018. 

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Categories: Opinion