Sheriff says deputy in blackface was not racist, allows her to keep job

Jean Browning and husband (Photo Source: York-James City-Williamsburg (YJCW) Branch of the NAACP)

Apparently, in York-Poquoson, Virginia, a White cop in blackface is not considered racist, according to the sheriff’s department. Last month, Deputy Jean Browning of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office decided to celebrate Halloween by mocking Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Browning, a White woman, darkened her face and wore a red hat similar in nature to that of  Wilson. Her husband decided to dress as Donald Trump and wore a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Pictures of Browning were seen online and sent to the York-James City-Williamsburg (YJCW) Branch of the NAACP. The result was outrage from the NAACP and calls for disciplinary action against Browning that included the possibility of getting fired. A series of meetings had taken place between the local NAACP officials and Sheriff J. D. Diggs to reach a solution. Browning is a 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and has several letters of commendation, according to Diggs. The sheriff decided to discipline Browning by simply reassigning her to courtroom duty with no further disciplinary action.

According to a press release from Sheriff Diggs posted to Facebook:

“Deputy Browning’s intent was simply to portray Wilson as a political celebrity as Browning’s boyfriend was in a costume portraying Donald Trump. The combined intent of the couple was to convey the message of how funny it would be for two political figures that were at odds with each other to go to a party together.”

The NAACP released a statement that reads in part:

“Although it was acknowledged that our concerns were legitimate, it was clear that there would be no disciplinary action taken against Deputy Browning by the sheriff’s department. ‘It was commented to [the chapter’s president] that had Deputy Browning been wearing a ‘noose’ or a derogatory sign, disciplinary action would be appropriate. However, it is the Branch’s position that blackface in and of itself should be enough to warrant disciplinary action… it’s inappropriate and disheartening when anyone mocks someone’s race, but it is inexcusable when someone connected with our law enforcement finds it acceptable to paint their face to impersonate African-Americans.”

Congresswoman Wilson was ridiculed by racist Republicans for supporting Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in combat in the African nation of Niger. During a call with Myeshia Johnson, President Donald Trump could not remember her husband’s name and callously stated, “He knew what he signed up for.”

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.