A blackface controversy has hit the Baton Rouge police department after decades-old pictures surfaced of undercover cops rocking darkened faces and costumes for a drug sting, the New York Daily News reports.
At issue are two officers; Crimestoppers coordinator Lt. Don Stone and now-retired police Capt. Frankie Caruso, who posed as “Soul Brothers” in pictures that appeared in a 1993 Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook. Now the department is apologizing for the photos in light of the perpetual blackface controversies that have taken flight over the past few weeks, most recently involving the governor of Virginia.
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive,” Police Chief Murphy Paul said in a statement. “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.”
The photo shows two officers in dark makeup and a costume, with the caption "Soul Brothers." One officer said they took the photo after his wife had them 'done up' in makeup so they could appear black for a narcotics operation. https://t.co/P3Ie6rI9za
— The Advocate (@theadvocatebr) February 12, 2019
Paul also noted that blackface of any kind – on or off duty – would not be tolerated by the force “under any circumstances.”
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who is African American, condemned the disturbing photos.
“While this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right,” she said in a statement.
“Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation.”
The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Stone and Caruso went undercover as Black men because it would have been too easy to recognize the Black officers.
Caruso said wearing the blackface costume was much like dressing up as a gay man, a biker and a prostitute, according to the Advocate.
Majority of Americans polled support wearing blackface
Given all the blackface controversies making headlines lately, it might be unsurprising that a new poll has found a large section of the American population secretly doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the racially charged practice.
According to the Atlanta BlackStar, researchers working with YouGov, an international Internet-based market research company, took a poll at the beginning of February amid the blackface scandals taking place among politicians and others.
In the survey, 1,500 Americans of across varying racial, gender, socio-economic and party lines were asked, “Is it acceptable or unacceptable for a white person to wear blackface makeup?”
Only a slight majority of 58 percent said they found it unacceptable, 16 percent said wearing makeup meant to mock people of color was totally acceptable and a surprising 26 percent were undecided. That means a total 42 percent of Americans either condone blackface or aren’t really passionate about their stance on the matter, despite the fact that it has been considered a socially unacceptable practice for decades.