NYPD’s ‘Blue Racism’ video is seriously tone deaf

The Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA)— an organization of 13,000 active and retired New York Police Department sergeants—has taken the “Blue Lives Matter” movement to a whole new level with a video that argues police officers are targets of racism: blue racism. The SBA’s tone-deaf video seems like a sketch from Funny or Die or Saturday Night Live.

The three and half minute-long video (which is not satire) begins with a somber piano chord and a narrator listing the many other titles police officers carry such as coach, daughter, and community volunteer before launching into the heart of the argument. “The average person doesn’t see those things that make me human. They don’t even label me based on being African American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, and so on. They tend to see an even broader stereotype through an even more racist lens. When they look at me, they see blue.”

It is at that point the screen is tinted blue and the narrator elaborates on his interesting line of thinking: “I’m a minority as this strange form of racism continues to engulf the country.”

The video then rolls into news reports of ambushes on police officers, police protesters in action, and even includes courtroom footage of NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry who is charged with second degree murder in the on-duty shooting death of Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old mentally ill Black woman.

Most people recognize race as a social construct. Though there are physical characteristics that strongly correlate to different races, a strong argument could be made that racial differences are defined by culture more than genetics alone. That said, birth certificates (for example) adhere to the social construct of race and “blue” is not an option.

Unless you are a Smurf or a character from the film Avatar, nobody is born blue. A profession is not the same as a racial identity or designation. Twitter users, who left thousands of comments, pointed out this obvious flaw in logic.

The video is just the latest in a continuous effort to invalidate and undermine the veracity of claims made by organizations like Black Lives Matter about civil and human rights violations, discrimination, and inequality. To call police officers a minority is an insult. A numerical minority? Absolutely. Most people are not cops. But to use that term along with racism to describe behavior towards law enforcement is insulting and disingenuous. Police officers are armed, trained, and sworn to protect and serve their communities. As public servants with authority and weaponry, they should be held to a high standard of moral and ethical behavior.

In a time period when the public is better informed about the roughly 1,000 people shot and killed by police each year (some of those shootings being suspect at best), it follows that relationships between officers and the communities disproportionally impacted by those shootings are strained.

So, it’s not a travesty that Sgt. Hugh Barry was charged with murder for an on-duty shooting. Police officers should be held accountable and their behavior should be scrutinized and subject to the criminal justice system that they send people to everyday.

Ambushes and out right assaults on police officers are wrong and should be appropriately addressed, but not mislabeled as racism against blue people (who do not exist). The notion is absurd and feeds into the awful false equivalencies perpetuated by people like the 45th president and his “many sides” comments in regards to Charlottesville.

The SBA video does include a strong condemnation of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, but then it undermines that with the following statement: “Racism of any kind will never be tolerated.” Normally that would not be seen as waffling against the original strong statement, but given that the entire video is about “blue racism,” the SBA seemingly could not bear to say one true thing without undercutting it.

Instead of making silly, low-quality videos, the SBA should use that time and effort to talk to the people in the communities they serve and hold each other accountable to respect the life and liberty of those people.
Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.