A Real Blast From The Past

Really? A 67-year old former Baltimore police officer performing in “blackface” as a fundraiser for the Baltimore officers charged in the Freddie Grey case? Against the wishes of everyone involved, including the Baltimore FOP? Thank goodness it was canceled.

There’s a story behind the story. 30 years ago the officer won a big First Amendment lawsuit when he was fired after performing in blackface at a local club. In a pretty important decision, a federal court of appeals found that his speech was artistic in nature and was entitled to the same broad protections as other forms of artistic speech. After the ruling, the officer settled the case for $200,000.

But that was 30 years ago. A lifetime ago, and a different world. Shoot, the fat cells in our bodies are replaced every 10 years, not adjusting for the expansion in the number of those cells that seems to accompany age. Our sensitivity, tolerance, understanding, and morays have shifted just about that fast. I’ll confess I don’t get doing the blackface thing 30 years ago — or ever, for that matter — but the notion that it would be even marginally acceptable today so far beyond the pale that it may even move beyond the offensive to the just plain sad.

And really, I sure hope that I know when it’s time to move on. And if I don’t, I really hope somebody tells me.