John Blake, a CNN writer, has a different take on the controversy surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the recently discovered photographs from his medical school yearbook of one student in blackface, the other wearing a Klan outfit.

He writes:

What more do you need to know? The damage to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s credibility is so beyond repair that some critics say he has to go.
But here’s an uncomfortable truth that photo won’t reveal:
Some of the biggest champions for black people in America’s past have been white politicians who were racists.

Some of our best friends were racist

A pop history quiz:
Who was the white Southerner who used the N-word almost like a “connoisseur” and routinely called a landmark civil rights law “the n—– bill.”
That was President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the greatest civil rights champion of any modern-day president.
Who was the white judge who joined the KKK, marched in their parades and spokeat nearly 150 Klan meetings in his white-hooded uniform?
That was Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who incurred the wrath of his fellow Southerners when he voted to abolish Jim Crow segregation in the court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
And who was the white politician who also used the N-word freely, told racist jokes and said African-Americans were biologically inferior to whites?
That’s Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” and arguably the nation’s greatest president.
The point of these examples is not to offer a historical loophole for any leader caught being blatantly racist.
What happens to Northam is ultimately up to the people he serves and to his conscience.
But what I’m saying is that what matters to some black people — not all, maybe not even most — is not what a white politician did 30 years ago.
It’s what he’s doing for them today.

Who would pass the racist abstinence pledge?

I’m wary of those commentators who say they speak for an entire race of people. When a white friend sometimes asks what black people think of an issue, I sometimes tell them, “I don’t know, I missed the Weekly Meeting for All Black People in America.”
Yet I feel confident in saying this: Most are not shocked to hear that a white politician who is a purported ally is accused of doing something racist…
If black people only worked with white allies free of any racism, bias or past mistakes, we would be alone.
Before the yearbook incident, Northam won the support of Virginia’s black community. He forcefully denounced the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that took the life of a young woman. He successfully pushed for the expansion of Obamacare in Virginia. Former President Barack Obama campaignedfor him. He won almost 90% of the black vote in his successful run for governor in 2017.
That might help him, or it may not be enough.
What matters for some is not one act from a person’s life but the entire play. Do they push for equality in the end?…
One of the reasons Johnson was such an effective champion for blacks is that he understood the Southern mind better than most. He was fighting against the same demons that he grappled with. He knew what buttons to push against the racist politicians who stood in his way.
Yet there is not much room for a politician to evolve in today’s environment. There is a “rage industrial complex” that fixates on the latest racial flashpoint: an outrageous video, remark or image that’s passed around social media like a viral grenade.
Meanwhile those banal acts of racism that don’t get caught in a photo or a tweet go by unremarked.
Here’s when I know there’s genuine racial progress.
It’s not when a white politician is caught being racist and people demand his or her head. It’s when people show the same amount of public outrage over the everyday acts of racism — voter suppression, racial profiling, redlining — that define so much of our everyday lives.
Now that would be shocking.