Virginia State Governor Ralph Northam has confirmed he wore blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume, aged 25.

The declaration came after Mr Northam’s 1984 yearbook page — showing two men in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes beside Mr Northam’s portrait — went viral.

Gov. Northam who originally denied it was him in the photograph, has since tried to contextualise: “where I grew up, many actions” considered “abhorrent today were commonplace.”

Yet an African-American classmate of Northam’s assured the NY Post “someone going to a party in blackface [...] would have been an issue.”

Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, initially joined the chorus of voices demanding Gov. Northam’s resignation. On Wednesday Mr Herring also admitted he once wore “brown makeup” to resemble “rappers”. His own resignation is now possible.

How do we draw the line between what belongs to private or past life, and ought to bear little on our ability to carry out present duties — and that which is unacceptable?

To what extent should we be professionally accountable for things we did or said in our youth?

Credit for this article’s header image goes to Getty.