A St. Joseph, Missouri, police officer, Zackary Craft, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave after appearing in a racially charged music video for a song called “Before This Bomb Blows Up (Racism Goes Both Ways),” which was uploaded on YouTube, by Josh Smith (who goes by J. Smitty).
Throughout the song, J. Smitty questions issues regarding social injustices, including Black Lives Matter, Trayvon Martin, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), “pulling the race card” and slavery. He also breaks pictures of Rev. Jesse Jackson and President Barack Obama, as well as criticizes the president’s involvement in issues relating to police brutality against Blacks.
“‘Trayvon could’ve been my son, yeah, no (expletive), and every officer that’s gunned down could’ve been my dad,” J. Smitty says.
In the video Craft, who is wearing his police uniform, appears multiple times and holds up signs with various messages, including “COP LIVES MATTER,” “RIGHT IS RIGHT” and “WRONG IS WRONG.”
Capt. Jeff Wilson of the St. Joseph Police Department said the department “in no way condone[s] that video.”
“It is in violation of our policies and procedures concerning social media,” said Wilson, who serves as the department’s public information officer.
Craft’s attorney, Morgan Roach, alleged that his client did not know the full message behind the video when he agreed to be in it and that Craft “wholeheartedly rejects the song, the music video and the misguided message in its entirety.”
“When Officer Craft saw the finished product for the first time recently, he was appalled and promptly acted to repudiate the song and to have it removed from the public’s view,” Roach said. “Officer Craft did not know or give permission for the images to be used in the manner depicted in the music video.”
But the second half of the song title alone “Racism Goes Both Ways” should have served as enough of an indicator that perhaps a police officer should not get involved in such controversial subject matter, especially given the heightened tensions between Blacks and police officers throughout the country.
Incidentally, just around the time the video came out, St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally had planned to meet with the local NAACP chapter, News-Press Now reported.
The chapter’s assistant secretary, LaDawndra Robbs, said she was “disappointed” and “frustrated” by the video, in part due to Craft’s status as a police officer.
“That triggers fear, anxiety [and] the issue again of what are we going to do [if] we don’t have anybody we can trust even in the police department,” she said. “That’s just not a good sign.”
J. Smitty took the video down from YouTube after the police department suspended Craft. He uploaded a new version with Craft’s face blurred out and insisted that his video sought “to paint a good picture of police officers.”
“The message behind [the video] is very controversial and I understand they’re trying to do damage control, but he didn’t hold up any bad signs in the video,” J. Smitty said.
AlthoughCraft did not hold up signs containing racial slurs (but the video did feature those as well), it is hard to believe he did not know the implications of the messages he presented. Stating “COPS LIVES MATTER” is an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement, which advocates against race-related police brutality.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has commonly been countered with “White Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter,” these arguments diminish the true meaning of the BLM movement. The message is not to say that any lives matter any more or less than others, but rather that all lives should matter equally and that, in the eyes of many Black Americans, they haven’t mattered equally for many years.
But Craft, who has declined to give a public statement, is just the latest in a series of prominent figures engaging in questionable racist behavior on social media without fearing any serious repercussions including other police officers. Last month, a police sergeant took to Facebook to tell people to run over who he called Black Lives Matter “idiots” who were rallying on Martin Luther King Jr. day. He even assured people that the legal system would be on their side if charges were filed because “it will be jury trial and so most likely it will come out in your favor.”
Earlier this month, Bill Romanowski, a former NFL player, referred to Cam Newton as “boy” on his Twitter account. “Boy” was a term used during the slavery and Jim Crow eras and was another way to keep Blacks unequal from whites. It meant an adult Black man would never be equal to that of an adult white man.
Even victims of police brutality are not safe from the social media rampages. Also last month, Matthew Cicero, a resource officer in Cleveland, referred to Samaria Rice mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was gunned down by a police officer in Nov. 2014 as a “stupid b**ch” on his Facebook.