Letter to the editor re: NL Law Enforcement Torch Run

I am in shock. Disappointed, disgusted, shocked. I have just read the CBC News article on members of law enforcement agencies of all types dressing in what can only be described as racist costumes, and I cannot for the life of me comprehend how this was allowed to happen. To make matters worse, these photos were not leaked or obtained from a private social media account; they were published with pride by NL Law Enforcement Torch Run!

As a black man living in this province, I have often been told that I can trust the police here. How does the image of three law enforcement officers in blackface, with absurd outfits clearly meant to mock my very heritage, encourage any sort of trust in the people paid and sworn to protect me? How am I to believe that I will not be seen with this lens and held to this stereotype?

Oh, but it’s OK! “It was not our intention to offend anyone in any way but to celebrate diversity.” I’ve heard of doubling down before, but this takes the cake. Of all people, I would expect law enforcement officials to know that intent is hardly relevant, it’s about the impact.

If you want to celebrate diversity, dress as a prominent person of colour. Do some research into respectful ways to represent Black, Indigenous and Middle Eastern cultures. And never, ever use blackface.

One thing I note from the CBC piece is a complete lack of an apology – I demand that apology. These individuals need training on cultural sensitivity and on interacting with what is becoming a more and more diverse society here in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Canada as a whole.

I was always taught growing up to respect those in uniform. If this is how those people choose to conduct themselves when not in uniform, I will find that very difficult.

Chris Lansdell

Director for Racially Visible Members, Atlantic Region
Public Service Alliance of Canada