To me, vowing to challenge racism in your workplace is not a bad thing. Especially when the people at your workplace are armed and their racism can result in someone’s death.
There is nothing about that photo that says, “I work with a bunch of racists!” It says to me that the chief understands that the system is messed up, and we’ve got to start doing something about it. And where better to start than a declaration from the top?
If I worked anywhere and the folks in charge made this type of public statement, my first thought would NOT be, “He’s saying we’re all racists!” Pretty sure it would be something along the lines of, “Damn, that’s refreshing.” (When I was at the archives this fall, there was a call for essays and comments on the impact of Ferguson and other police incidents. I was blown away that they would even ask.)
I feel like the police union missed a good opportunity here – if they were serious about the importance of eliminating institutional racism, especially in police departments. I think a GREAT response would have been, “If any of our members are offended by the police chief’s action, they should probably take a good, hard look at themselves and ask why they feel threatened by the idea that racism in the workplace should be challenged.”
But the key word there is IF. IF they are serious about trying to fix things. And the response so far doesn’t give me much encouragement on that note.
What I’d love to see next is Pittsburgh police officers loudly and publicly supporting their chief through both words and actions.