For once, a news anchor has broken professionalism to candidly express what the viewers must have wondered: who would do that? Let’s be clear: it’s not the Baltimore police department or the police union. In fact, they once fired this man for doing the same thing in the 1980s. It appears they have a loose canon on their hands, and the very last thing needed to help with public relations.
The anchor is expressing incredulity that a former Baltimore officer would paint himself in “blackface” and do a nearly century-old Al Jolson routine during a benefit for six officers indicted on criminal charges in the death of Freddie Gray. Al Jolson, who died in 1950, performed one such routine in the movie, The Jazz Singer – one of the first, memorable “talkies” filmed in 1927.
According to ABC 2 News, former Baltimore officer Bobbie Berger announced his plans to perform his signature Al Jolson routine – and…that plan was immediately shot down. It sounds like every person and venue initially involved has declined any offer for funds raised by Berger.
ABC 2 News reports that he was fired after performing the act off-duty in the 1980s. In fact, you can still see a 1980s news reel with a similarly embarrassed news anchor and the same type of controversy ensuing.
Not only was this performance routine announced during the height of stoked tension between police and minorities, and police and citizens of all walks of life – but it also conversely follows on the heels of a different former Baltimore policeman who has been “Tweeting” revelations of corruption he witnessed while on the force.
This incident is eerily similar to an officer charity event where a Private I sang his version of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” using graphically violent lyrics about the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. A leaked video led to some negative press. Again, someone independently thought it would be great fun – and spent lots of time and effort crafting it. Regardless of pressure from “PC police” – neither event idea shows any feeling for actual victims or their grieving families especially since it is wrapped up as a form of entertainment.
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