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Northam Orders Probe of Racism Claims at Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered an investigation into racist allegations at Virginia Military Institute, where a letter obtained by The Washington Post cites “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at the country’s oldest state-supported military school.

The Democratic governor sent the letter signed by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and other lawmakers to VMI’s Board of Visitors announcing the “independent, third-party review” of the institute after Black cadets and alumni said they endured racism while attending the school, according to the Post.

“Black cadets at VMI have long faced repeated instances of racism on campus, including horrifying new revelations of threats about lynching, vicious attacks on social media, and even a professor who spoke fondly of her family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan — to say nothing of inconsistent application of the Institute’s Honor Code,” the letter reads.

The Post also reported that Black cadets make up about 8 percent of the college, which received almost $19 million in state funding this past fiscal year.

Northam, a 1981 graduate of the Lexington, Va., school, came under fire in February 2019 when he admitted being in a photo in a 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showing one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. The governor initially apologized before retracting his statement, saying he doesn’t think he is either of the two people in the photo but that he did wear blackface that year to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

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