Viral video of toddler cursing: Some see racism in police comments (+video)
The Omaha Police Officers Association's handling of a viral video of a toddler spotlights the troubled relationship between the local police force and minority communities, the ACLU says.
A toddler seen babbling a litany of obscenities while adults goaded him on in a video that went viral has been taken into protective custody, police in Omaha, Neb., said on Wednesday. But while the video itself has generated plenty of commentary, a civil rights group says the police union's handling of the incident spotlights a troubled relationship between the local police force and minority communities, as well as bears possible racist undertones.Skip to next paragraph
Elizabeth Barber is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and English from SUNY Geneseo. Before coming to the Monitor, she was a freelance reporter at DNAinfo, a New York City breaking news site. She has also been an intern at The Cambodia Daily, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and at Washington D.C.’s The Middle East Journal.
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In the video, an African-American toddler wearing just a diaper pushes over a chair, waves his middle finger, and repeats the obscenities and racial slurs that adult male and female voices, heard in the background, encourage him to say. The adults laugh each time the child parrots the profanities.
The video was first posted on the Facebook page of a man that the Omaha Police Officers Association (OPOA) called “a local thug.” It went viral when the police union reposted the video, under the title the “Thug Cycle,” on its website and Facebook page, calling the “heartbreaking and sickening footage” an example of the “terrible cycle of violence and thuggery” that local police officers battle.
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“Now while we didn’t see anything in this video that is blatantly ‘illegal,’ ” the union wrote, “we sure did see a lot that is flat out immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child from a healthy upbringing standpoint.”
Viewers reacted to the video with outrage – but not just at the adults egging the child on. They also had vitriol for the police union that had reposted the video.
Commentators on the postings and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said this week that the union’s description of the video – in particular its use of the word “thug” to describe the video’s original poster – have put stress on an already-bitter relationship between the city’s minority communities and a police department that has been beset over the past few years with allegations of racism and abuse.
The episode comes just days after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against 32 Omaha police officers, alleging that they had used excessive force against a local African-American family while responding to a parking incident last spring. An internal investigation of the incident, in which a woman was allegedly thrown from her wheelchair and handcuffed, has so far resulted in the firing of four of the officers, and criminal charges have been brought against two of them.