Ralph Northam and the Age of Accountability

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has recently come into a bit of trouble after a controversial picture from over 30 years ago has resurfaced.  It was a picture from his yearbook in his final year at EVMS that pictured two people: one in a Ku Klux Klan costume and the other in a blackface costume.  Although Governor Northam claims to not remember the photo or being in either costume, although the picture appears on his yearbook page. Controversy has risen from this picture, with Northam potentially being forced to resign from his position as Governor of Virginia.  

Many believe that this picture is not an accurate representation of who Governor Northam really is, and that we should not punish him for this picture that was taken over thirty years ago. However, there are others who believe that this picture damages his public image so badly that forcing him to resign would be justified.  One senior at Cape Henry who wished to remain anonymous was on the side that believed he should resign. This senior said that this act was “racist, offensive, and hateful,” and that someone who would wear such a costume “has no place in the American government.” Another Cape Henry Student, Kade Keenan (‘22), thinks that he should not be forced to resign because it was “just one mistake” and “probably isn’t who he really is.”

As the use of technology and social media among teens increases, so does our so-called “digital footprint.”  Our digital footprint is what we leave behind on the internet that could come back to haunt us many years in the future.  There is controversy as to whether or not we should be held accountable for things we post online thirty years from now.  Dean of Students, Mr. Angilly, conducted a survey among the CHC upper school, and he stated that “an overwhelming majority” of the responses said that we should not be held accountable.  Senior George Selemaj stated, “We all have said things that we are not proud of at one point in our life. These statements do not make us bad people. We just need to learn from our mistakes and move on.”

The majority of the students at Cape Henry feel as George does.  However, other students, including senior Wladimir Gassant, feel differently. He believes that “if we are old enough to post stuff online, then we are old enough to be held accountable for what we say online, no matter how far into the future we are called out for it.”