The police in Lockport, New York, a small upstate town outside of Buffalo, asked residents for help solving a mystery yesterday. They couldn’t decide whether the word negro was “an offensive word or just an outdated word.” So the department asked its 2,500 Facebook fans to chime in. And chime in they did.
Gawker compiled some responses to the now-deleted question, including a couple of people agreeing that the word is outdated and pivoting to a bizarre argument about the other, more infamous N-word. Eventually the department’s community liaison explained the bizarre question, writing that he asked it “not to raise controversy but to raise awareness of being sensitive to all that the LPD are responsible to protect and serve.”
Really, though, he asked the question because of another stupid thing the department did. According to local news station WGRZ, the LPD recently gave it a press release with a mug shot of a shooting suspect. The suspect was described as a “dark negro.”
When the station asked Lockport police chief Larry Eggert about the term and its potential to offend, he said, “I don’t ever use that term but I didn’t think it was an offensive term regardless.” Apparently the department’s computer system allows suspects to be identified as “light negro” or “dark negro,” along with ten other complexions. The department’s excuse? The system dates back to 1994. That leads us to a question: In 1994, was negro an offensive word or just an outdated word?