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The past resurfaces with a vengeance

This afternoon, Virginia's attorney general admitted to wearing blackface in the past, while an accuser detailed her sexual assault allegations against the state's lieutenant governor.

Diagram: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The big picture: In decades past, these allegations might not have ever become public. Now, they're impossible to dismiss. And that's not just true for public officials.

  • High-profile business leaders are being warned to run an opposition-research scan on themselves, as if they were political candidates, to search for problematic yearbook and other images from the past.
  • That advice, reported by the Wall Street Journal, reflects a sudden surge in attention to racism and #MeToo accusations, some going back decades.

Be smart: In corporations, this new scrutiny is expected to extend to new hires of senior talent, a PR executive told the WSJ.

  • "As a best practice, companies should be doing background checks on all senior level and board hires, digging in 25 years or more. 'You have to go back both virtually and physically,' [the exec] said, identifying 'high school and college activities, fraternities, nicknames, everything.'"

The bottom line: This isn't just a problem from the past, and it's not just confined to the old south.

  • Jan. 24, 2019: "Florida secretary of state resigns after photos reveal he wore blackface" (Axios)
  • Jan. 22, 2019: "University of Oklahoma says students involved in blackface video 'will not return to campus'" (CNN)
  • April 11, 2018: "Blackface Leads to Fraternity Suspension at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo" (NYT)
  • Oct. 3, 2016: "Pennsylvania College Students Suspended Over Blackface Video" (Reuters)

P.S. Fallout over blackface isn't just limited to those who wear the offensive garb. NBC host Megyn Kelly's show was canceled last year after she said she didn't know why wearing blackface was seen as racist.

Go deeper: Virginia's 3 highest ranking state officials all land in hot water

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