The NYPD sergeants union says that cops are the victims of “blue racism,” and it’s facing backlash from critics who call the claim tone-deaf.
Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, hopes the concept of blue racism will help ease the tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve and debunk the stereotype of cops as biased and racist.
“Something is occurring where law enforcement is becoming the target of this national racist issue, this back and forth, and being labeled the bad guy when we’re not the bad guy, we’re actually the good guy,” Mullins told Yahoo News.
On Sunday night, the police union released a controversial video that claims police officers are judged not by race or ethnicity but “an even broader stereotype, through an even more racist lens.”
“When they look at me, they see blue,” the narrator says. “To be blue, I and over 700,000 brother and sisters swore an oath to uphold the constitution of my country, my state and my city, so help me God. Yet, even in such numbers, I’m a minority as this strange form of racism continues to engulf the country.”
The video, which includes audio of the notorious “dead cops chant,” was based on an essay by John Pappas. It was written after NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered in December 2014 as supposed retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y., and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Similar incidents include the killing of five Dallas cops and the killing of three Baton Rouge cops in July 2016.
“The purpose of the video was to highlight blue racism, blue bias, whatever term, and get people to understand that we too feel this bias, racism, no different from the people who’ve been affected by it for many years. We don’t agree with it. Nobody should agree with it,” Mullins said.
The video sparked almost immediate backlash on social media. Critics said the police union doesn’t appear to understand racism, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
For critics, even as an analogy, the concept of blue racism simply doesn’t hold up and belittles the discrimination — including harassment from police officers — faced by people of color.
When given an opportunity to respond to these critiques, Mullins said, “The people who you described to me just now have very valid points and I understand them. But it’s now an opportunity for us to navigate through all of that to say, ‘How do we fix the real deep-rooted issues?’”
The video concludes by condemning the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Mullins said he’s received some calls or emails from members of the NYPD who are happy that the organization is “finally explaining” the hostility to which its officers are subjected.
“The video serves as an instrument for learning,” he said. “Maybe other people will look at it and go, ‘Wait, maybe we got someone who is willing to listen.’ You got this white Irish union leader for police that may get it. So maybe that’s the way to go.”
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