A sheriff's deputy in Virginia has been reassigned from her role in a school system after an NAACP issued a formal complaint against her Halloween costume, which used blackface.
Deputy Jean Browning, of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Department, was reassigned on Wednesday night from her position as a D.A.R.E. officer in the school system, reported the Daily Press.
The reassignment followed a complaint from a York-James City-Williamsburg NAACP branch, which argued Browning wearing blackface and dressing as Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was offensive.
Browning wore the costume for a Halloween party, wherein her boyfriend was dressed up as President Donald Trump. Wilson and Trump notably were at odds earlier this year when Wilson criticized the president’s phone call with a gold star widow.
NAACP officials released a statement that said Browning’s decision to dress in blackface was inappropriate. The chapter called for the deputy to be officially reassigned.
"For decades, blackface has been synonymous with hate, degradation and bigotry," the release states.
“Deputy Browning’s conduct expressly contradicts D.A.R.E.’s goal by mocking members of the York County community and school.”
Sheriff J.D. Diggs, who spoke on the matter during a news conference, claimed Browning and her boyfriend meant the costumes as a joke and did not intend to harm.
“The combined intent of the couple was to portray how funny it would be for two political figures who were at odds with each other to go to a party together," Diggs during the press conference.
Diggs said he learned of the costume at an NAACP meeting on Nov. 6, and was handling the issue as a personnel matter. He said he’d had conversations with NAACP officials and was seeking input for the possibility of sensitivity training, as well as further conversations. He said he was surprised to receive an email Wednesday afternoon notifying him of the NAACP’s release.
“I am disappointed that another meeting was not scheduled,” he said.
Diggs said Browning is remorseful. She is being reassigned to the courts.
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