While the Commonwealth of Virginia awaits the resolution of a series of scandals involving its Governor and Lieutenant Governor, there remains the matter of Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who apologized for wearing blackface styled after rap legend Kurtis Blow at a costume party in 1980, while he was 19.
While national Democrats push for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam, and while facts surrounding two alleged assaults at the hands of Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, Herring’s apology seemed comparatively tame.
“Some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” said Herring, who has been prepping for a 2021 gubernatorial campaign of his own. “Because of our ignorance and glib attitudes—and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspective of others—we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”
“That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt,” Herring said during his apology to Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus. Though he maintains he never donned blackface again, said that “the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades” while acknowledging that his ability to maintain his position as Attorney General was in doubt.
On Friday, Blow, born Kurtis Walker, addressed Herring’s apology with an open letter posted on Instagram.
“It is my hope ,” he said, “that these regrettable actions can be turned into teachable moments.”
Speaking to TMZ, Blow said he found Herring’s photo to be “totally offensive and disrespectful,” adding that he’s “seen tributes before where blackface was not used.”
Herring’s blackface scandal is the third to hit Virginia politics in the last few weeks.Though Northam apologized initially, he later walked back his statement, claiming he was neither the blackface student nor the student beneath he Klan hood. Northam maintains he has no plans to resign.
Herring, one of the first local voices to call for Northam’s resignation, would apologize for his blackface photo four days later.