In a sad display of ignorance regarding what racism actually is, NYPD union Sergeants Benevolent Association released a video Sunday, titled “Blue Racism,” intended to decry the discrimination faced by police officers.
“What do you see? Son, daughter? mother, father, aunt, uncle, or cousin?” asks an unseen narrator in the first 10 seconds of the video as photographs of police officers in uniform flash across the screen. Notably, none of these labels are related to the speaker’s race.
The narrator goes on to complain that cop-haters “don’t even label me based on being African American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and so on,” which oddly describes racial profiling. Instead, the narrator insists, all people see is “an even broader stereotype, through an even more racist lens.”
That stereotype? Being “blue,” a police officer, an occupation that is willfully chosen and denoted by a uniform that can be donned or shed. This ability to remove a police uniform, or even change professions, is notably different than a person’s skin tone, and the perception and treatment that accompanies their race in modern society.
The video cites incidents of violence against police officers as evidence that the “blue racism” that cops face is alive and well. Though this violence is reprehensible, it simply is not racism.
Racism is not a catch-all term that applies when anyone displays animosity towards a group of people who share something. Racism as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” Saying that Asian people are bad at driving is an example of racism. Saying that it’s a problem that police officers have already shot and killed 624 people since the beginning of 2017 is not.
Many were quick to point out the video’s flawed and offensive premise.
To equate the treatment of police officers in America and the treatment of racial minorities in America is appalling. It requires an astonishing amount of mental gymnastics, particularly when the justice system in which the police are the primary enforcers is such a massive contributor to the racial inequality that plagues the country.
Willing participants in a system that disproportionately targets minorities, particularly black and Hispanic individuals, disproportionately deploys lethal and non-lethal force against black individuals, and disproportionately imprisons black individuals don’t receive immunity from criticism because their job is hard.
Luckily, there are still police officers in the NYPD who are able to understand and willing to stand up for the plight of people of color. On Saturday, NYPD officers rallied in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, whose NFL contract was famously not renewed following a season of his refusal to stand during the national anthem, is a vocal critic of police violence against minorities, a critique shared by the rally’s organizers and attendees. “They said [Kaepernick] disrespected law enforcement,” Sergeant Raymond, the rally’s organizer, said in an interview with the New York Times. “Well, I’m law enforcement, and he didn’t disrespect me.”
Hopefully Raymond’s fellow NYPD officers and police officers around the country follow his example and pay attention to racism within their own ranks.