Philadelphia Police Officer Hung Nguyen is being investigated by his department after posting a photo of himself wearing blackface to social media.
Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif initially discovered the photo of Nguyen in blackface, and named Officer Nguyen as well as his badge number, while calling on the Philadelphia Police Department to fire Nguyen. According to NBC Philadelphia, the police department confirmed the person in the photo was indeed Nguyen, who is now apparently on desk duty.
Meet Philadelphia Police Officer Hung Nguyen badge number #6659 posted this picture of him in blackface on his fb page. I'm asking Commissioner Richard Ross to immediately fire the officer. @PPDCommish pic.twitter.com/pTZw87KzIN
— Asa khalif (@AsaKhalif) October 31, 2018
“We don’t know the nexus of the photo,” Philadelphia Police Captain Sekou Kinebrew told local media. “It could have been some sort of computer graphic that we see, or it could be something he physically applied on himself. That’s something we are looking to ascertain.”
“If [Nguyen] is the one who put the blackface on and the bush and put all of it out there, then he shouldn’t be a police officer,” said Rochelle Bilal of the Guardian Civic League. “I don’t know authentically if it’s his image but you put it on your page and you left it there, for everybody to see.”
The history of blackface dates back to the “minstrel shows” of the 19th century, in which white performers would don makeup several shades darker than their natural skin tone and perpetuate racist stereotypes onstage. This is why former NBC host Megyn Kelly was recently fired for defending people wearing blackface as a Halloween costume (Kelly also once famously insisted that fictional character Santa Claus was white when she still worked at Fox News).
Mapping Police Violence — a database that tracks all police shootings of citizens across the U.S. — found that the Philadelphia Police Department kills more black people on average than other races. Between 2013 and 2017, Philadelphia officers killed 29 people, 16 of which were black, meaning African Americans make up 55 percent of all police shootings in Philadelphia over the four-year period analyzed. Comparatively, Philadelphia is only 41 percent black according to Census data.
NBC Philadelphia spoke briefly to Officer Nguyen, who wouldn’t answer questions about whether or not his blackface costume was digitally applied or if he used makeup. The local police union has also not commented on the investigation.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.