Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay has continued to get national attention following the tweeting and going viral of a photo of him holding a sign reading, “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence.”
McLay spoke to Katie Couric for Yahoo! Global News.
The picture brought both praise and criticism to McLay, including remarks from the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, who said McLay was inferring that the police are racist. McLay said he has since called the FOP president and explained where he was coming from.
“The intended context was, in fact, are we not, as police officers, not only ethically and morally but legally bound to stand up against racial discrimination and injustice, and I explained where I was coming from and we’re really not in a different place at all,” McLay told Couric.
McLay said if he had it to do over again – he would, but he would make one change.
“I would have gone to the nearest computer and put out an e-mail to my membership right away to explain context, because when you understand context and you have a sense of perspective, now you have the opportunity to understand what the message really means,” he said.
McLay called the incident a “blessing and an opportunity” to start a dialogue on the issues surrounding race and racial bias, a topic that has gotten a lot of national attention in recent months. That’s just what was happening when he was approached to take the picture – a dialogue.
“I engaged in a maybe 10 minute conversation, maybe a little bit longer, about these issues, about how human beings look at one another and the way implicit bias, or unconscious bias affects the way we interpret the actions of each other, how it can interfere with how we trust one another,” said McLay.
McLay said some of the negative response he got came from people viewing the sign as him siding with people who are protesting the police. But, he said that’s not the case. He pointed to the sign, which read “committed to ending racism” and said, “what police officer, what citizen in a free democracy wouldn’t stand up against injustice? Then I looked at the next line, and it says, ‘end white silence.’ To me, all that that phrase simply meant was that when there is injustice or when there is oppression there is opportunity for those not oppressed to be the most powerful voice for change.”
The full interview with Couric can be found here. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto this week spoke to Fox News’