Sociological Imagination, Politics, Discrimination

Introduction-Ralph Northam, is a former officer in the U.S Army Medical Corps and a physician and American politician, who is currently serving as the 73rd Governor of Virginia.

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Summary – In the year of 1984, Governor Ralph Northam had a “racist” photograph in his medical school yearbook, consisting of a student who was dressed up in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another student as blackface. Initially Governor Northam accepted and apologized saying that he was one of the students in the picture. In less than twenty-four hours later, he denied that fact that, he was in the picture and in fact has never seen such a picture before. Not only was this picture the highlight of the story, there was a man wearing a sombrero, a woman in a Japanese attire, a professor holding a mug that read. “We can’t get fired! Slaves have to be sold.” Several African-Americans during Northam’s period remember that their white classmates sat all together but socialized apart. Dr. David Randolph, a black oncologist, graduating class of 1983 expressed the fact that the students and professors “…had no concern for the people whose feelings that they were hurting.”

Dr. William Elmwood, a white retired physician stated that “…nothing seemed out of the ordinary when their white classmates wore blackface.” His argument was that this was done for a costume party, not as a racial insult. Dr. Randolph felt directly targeted during his medical school years because the chairman of the department informed him that he was going to fail since he was poor and due to his race. Dr. Randolph clearly expressed that due to the gap amongst white and black back in the days, his white classmates did not consider the KKK and blackface picture offensive, “that was the norm… that’s what people did.”

Why do I care- This current issue has created a major turmoil within the Northam’s political career. It has gotten to a point that people are deciding if he should resign or not. Is it reasonable and fair to judge his past actions now using our current moral values and socially accepted standards? I believe it is reasonable to judge a person based on their previous actions. The actions a person take in their past define them as a human being. It could be that he or she strongly believes in something and still supports it, or it could be a defining moment that person has realized he or she made an error/changed their view. The only way to talk and determine those moments is to find them. Should I take a justice or mercy standpoint? I believe that justice should be the prevalent value to take over mercy. Though mercy may lead people to the desired way of life and respect for each other, the lax nature of mercy just breeds more grounds for greater evil to emerge. If there is a desire for balance and order there should be a way for those who have wrought pain upon others to have a similar pain put onto them. Thus by creating an example of what happens to the rulebreakers we dissuade others from joining them and propagating the undesired behavior. If Northam is one of the students in the photograph, he should face the ramifications of his actions, as he has implicitly discriminated either the black or white.

Some might say that this has happened 35 years ago, why an issue all of a sudden? This just gives Northam a chance to redeem himself. They all knew that blackface and KKK and the other examples listed previously were considered inappropriate at that time. What makes it even more questioning is that fact that Northam was is in medical school, he wasn’t a small little kid. In a health profession, the one main factor you need to understand is that you never discriminate anybody based on color. Obviously, his foundation was not strong. As an aspiring physician, truly this is completely inappropriate regardless of what era we were in, to be a physician and not be cognizant of your actions and how that affects your fellow classmates and society as a whole truly contradicts the profession in which many are held at high moral standards, you treat everyone with complete respect whether its direct or indirect.

Sociological Imagination- During the 1950’s through 1960’s, the civil rights movement, led primarily by Martin Luther King, took place as a goal for blacks to gain equal rights under the law of United States. Later, the Civil Rights of 1964, terminated racial segregation, gave all the blacks and whites equal opportunity for education, housing, and to vote. The article states that all these dress up’s (a man wearing a sombrero, a woman in a Japanese, blackface and KKK) were attires for a costume party. This was not to insult anybody. But what about the mug that stated “We can’t get fired. Slaves have to be sold?” Or when an African-American was told that he was not going to pass medical school since he was poor and African? These examples clearly indicate that even after the civil rights movement, racial segregation was still expressed towards the blacks. During Northam’s medical school era, the whites expressed distinct social and cultural interest, which led them to having secret gatherings. Economic division: Due to the lack of resources compared to the whites, several black students were the first in their families to go to college.

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Sociological imagination, politics, discrimination. (2022, Oct 03). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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