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February 21, 2019

Two polls Wednesday found that a plurality of Virginia voters don't think Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should resign over his revelation that he dressed in blackface once in 1984, after a photo of a man in blackface standing next to a man in a KKK robe was found on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. In Quinnipiac's poll, 56 percent of black voters opposed Northam's resignation. There are several possible explanations for Northam's apparent political survival, but one of them is that blatantly racist yearbook photos were shockingly common in the 1970s and 1980s, USA Today found.

In a review of 900 yearbooks from 120 universities and colleges in 25 states in the '70s and '80s, USA Today found "students saluting in Nazi uniforms on Halloween or wearing orange paint and a headdress to depict a stereotype of a Native American on game day," a swastika banner, and photos of "'slave sale' fundraisers that auctioned off young women, 'plantation parties,' and a 'sharecroppers ball,'" the newspaper said. "But the vast majority of the offensive material show racist imagery, such as students in blackface or KKK robes," sometimes including nooses and mock lynchings.

"The volume of shocking imagery found in the examination, which was not comprehensive, suggests that there are likely more yearbooks that recorded racism on campuses nationwide — and countless more acts never captured on camera or submitted for publication," USA Today notes. Experts called this a systemwide failure at universities, and Andre M. Perry at the Brookings Institute had a theory. "The way to fit in, sadly, is to make fun of black people," he told USA Today. "It's a unifying act. It's sad but racism pulls people, particularly white people, together." You can read more at USA Today. Peter Weber

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