“Not only do they not know we’re cops — they don’t even know we’re white!”
That’s what then-Detective Frankie Caruso told a newspaper back in 1993 when he went undercover in blackface for the Baton Rouge Police Department. Now the department is apologizing for employing blackface years ago in predominantly black neighborhoods to trick prospective drug buyers into believing they were drug dealers.
In police yearbook photos that surfaced last week, the Louisiana cops appear in blackface throwing up apparent gang signs. One photo is captioned “Soul Brothers.”
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said in a statement after the photos began circulating on social media last week. “The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs.”
Baton Rouge police weren’t the only cops to use blackface in undercover stings back in the ‘90s. A Florida police department drew backlash in 1990 for dispatching officers in blackface to make arrests in a mostly black neighborhood of River Park.
Blackface, popularized by white minstrels in the mid-19th century and historically used to degrade black people, has caused a slew of controversies over the last few weeks. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has faced a growing backlash over the recent discovery of his medical school yearbook page that shows a photo of a man in blackface next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, admitted last week that he wore blackface while he was a college student.
Cover: Dakeria Anderson, 9, protests with the help of her sisters D'liyah, 6, and D'anyriah, 8, across the street from the Triple S market where Alton Sterling wash shot and killed in Baton Rouge, LA, on July 11, 2016. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)