What happens if you cuss outrageously at your toddler then post a video showing him swearing back at you? Apparently, your child gets placed into protective custody, as a Nebraska youngster did on Wednesday when a video showing the African-American, diaper-clad toddler swearing reached Omaha police. The Omaha Police Officers Association, which shared the video on their website, said that they had done so because "we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in." Not at all problematic with that thuggery comment.
Now, the Omaha Police Officers Association is being castigated for the move and their remarks by the city's police chief, the ACLU, and at least one community leader who say that the comment is racially aggravating.
In the video, which was originally posted on Facebook, the child is first repeatedly sworn at by the adults present, before he begins to imitate their language and posturing himself. The child is also asked which gang he's a member of, and asked to repeat sexually explicit phrases.
While the Omaha Police Officers Association made it clear that no offense had actually been committed in the video, they called the behavior in the video "immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child," and said that tackling it was crucial to "deal[ing] with the culture of violence and the culture of gang activity."
But critics of the Omaha POA, including Willie Hamilton, president of the community activist group Black Men United, said the POA "crossed a line by doing this."
"For them to take a video out of context — a 2-year-old who doesn't have the brain capacity to know what's going on — and to say that this child, because two adults acted inappropriately, is going to end up in a life of crime is totally inappropriate," Hamilton told CNN.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed an excessive-force suit against the Omaha Police Department on behalf of the family on Monday. They said the union's use of "racially charged language" was "very disconcerting."
Even Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer tried to distance his agency from the Police Officers Association, and issued a statement saying that the union's website and Facebook page are separate from those of the Police Department itself.
"I want to make it explicit and clear that the views expressed on the OPOA Facebook page do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the Omaha Police Department," Schmaderer said. "I strongly disagree with any postings that may cause a divide in our community or an obstacle to police community relations.
Around a quarter of Omaha's 409,000 residents are minorities, and the city has a history of racial tension and segregation. In 2006, Senator Ernie Chambers tried to create three separate school districts in the city, with each drawn along geographic boundaries that correlated to the racial segregation of the city. The State Legislature signed the boundaries into law in April 2006, only for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to bring a lawsuit against it. In 2009, the Omaha World Herald reported that the city was home to the poorest black children in the US, with six out of every ten of them living below the poverty line.
Meanwhile, you can tape your kid high on laughing gas all you want. At least, that is, if you're white.