The Baton Rouge Police Department has been under fire recently due to a controversial photograph that has resurfaced. Discovered in a 1993 department yearbook, the photo depicts two officers from the department wearing blackface as part of an undercover operation. In the picture captioned “Soul Brothers,” the pair is seen wearing sunglasses and holding up gang symbols. Though it was taken 25 years ago, many are angry that the department allowed the racist disguise, according to CNN News.
The photo of the Baton Rouge police officers first surfaced in local newspapers and then spread like wildfire on social media. Louisiana Police Chief Murphy Paul issued a public apology for the department’s actions. He said that the department would under no circumstances condone such behavior from their officers today.
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today. The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs. Today, we would not allow our officers to wear blackface in an official capacity under any circumstances. We have policies in place to prevent our officers from engaging in this type of behavior both on and off-duty.”
Chief Paul said that the officers’ disguise had been approved by those in charge of the department at the time, but did not name the officers in question.
In 1993, 2 undercover police officers in Baton Rouge dressed in blackface to pretend to be drug dealers. This week, the city's police chief apologized, but at least one of the officers isn't apologizing: "We did nothing wrong." https://t.co/oQAd5q7Q5K— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 13, 2019
While the pair may have been able to get away with this type of behavior in 1993, it certainly doesn’t fly now. In the past year, there has been much discussion about blackface and criticism upon those who knowingly or unknowingly promote it. Just last week, Katy Perry apologized after receiving complaints that a pair of shoes from her line resembled blackface. While the singer said she had never intended to promote racism or cause any pain, many called for the shoes to be removed from the market.
The national conversation regarding blackface really came to a head last year when former NBC host Megyn Kelly was fired for making controversial comments on air that many deemed as racist. She was discussing the ways in which the public acceptance of blackface has changed through the years and said that when she was young it was permissible to use it as part of a Halloween costume. Many felt her comments were attempting to suggest that in certain situations this public display of racism is acceptable. Her show, Megyn Kelly Today, was replaced within the same week.