By ANDREW SELSKY , Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for her Virginia counterpart to step down over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
"It's appalling, all of it," Brown told reporters Thursday when asked about Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. "He should resign. And then we have the next layer of issue, right? And one after that."
She was referring to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, the next in line for succession to Virginia's highest office, who is accused of sexual assault; and Attorney General Mark Herring, the second in line, who acknowledged he once put on blackface in college.
Northam apologized for appearing in a photo on his medical school yearbook page showing someone in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, then later denied he was in the photo.
"I think part of it awareness on these issues," Brown said when asked why some people don't understand that such costumes are offensive. "I think some of it is stupidity, honestly."
The governor, who is only the second female governor elected in Oregon and is the first openly bisexual governor in the United States, said America needs to have a broader conversation at every level about race and the impacts of racial inequities and racial justice.
"I wish we had a president who was willing to lead on this," she said, referring to President Donald Trump, who flirts with racially tinged rhetoric and who said there were "very fine people" among white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. One woman was killed when a neo-Nazi drove a car into counterprotesters.
White people don't know what it's like to live in a world where they are treated differently because of the color of their skin, Brown said.
"I only know from my experiences what it's like to be treated differently because I'm female or because I'm bisexual," the governor told reporters sitting with her at a conference table in her office. "That can translate a little bit, but it is not the same."
Racial discrimination is more explicit in Virginia, which grapples with a legacy of slavery and white supremacy, but it also exists — in a more subtle form — in Oregon, Brown said.
Brown earlier Thursday proclaimed February as African-American history month in Oregon, and said she commented to an education department official at the ceremony that high school graduation rates for African-American students remain low. The graduation rate for the state improved slightly to 78.7 percentage points but was only 68 percent for African-American students.
"That tells me we have a lot of work to do," Brown said, advocating education, a change in culture and providing better awareness as ways to erase racism.