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University yanks thin blue line pro-police mask after multicultural complaint

Campus president claims imagery is associated with white nationalism

The president of Muhlenberg College said the school’s bookstore stopped selling “thin blue line” face masks, which show support for law enforcement, because the imagery has become associated with “white nationalist” groups and supporters of Nazism.

The September 4 message to the private school in Pennsylvania’s members explained why the school removed the face masks.

President Kathleen Harring wrote:

We were faced with two issues when dealing with the face masks in question, one policy-related and the other values-focused. The College’s practice is to not sell merchandise that supports political or social causes. We believe profiting from any cause would be against our basic values to respect differing viewpoints and constructive discussion. That is why the bookstore was instructed to remove ‘Thin Blue Line’ face masks once we learned they were being sold. And it’s important to note other cause-related face masks, such as those for Black Lives Matter, have not been sold in the bookstore.

The president explained that the imagery first “stood for respect and support of our nation’s police officers.”

Harring then claimed that the school’s bookstore needed to stop selling the masks because it recently “has been adopted by white nationalist groups, along with Confederate and Nazi imagery.”

Harring’s message echoes arguments made earlier by the university in an email to the university community.

The message, a copy of which was obtained by Campus Reform, said the imagery “has evolved and taken on a harmful meaning with a painful impact because of its use by white suprimicist [sic] and alt right organizations.”

Campus Reform did not date the email, but the Muhlenberg Weekly, the campus paper, said the school sent the email on August 19.

Its removal and letter came after the school’s Office of Multicultural Life intervened to get the masks removed. Students had complained to the office after the bookstore posted the masks on August 14.

The Office of Multicultural Life posted on August 14 its response to the face masks, the same day the masks were first listed for sale, stating it was “outraged and deeply offended” by them.

While it is “comforting” that the masks are no longer for sale, the Office of Multicultural Life said “there is still a concern in how this offensive propaganda” was sold in the first place.

“The office said it contacted Muhlenberg College President Kathleen Harring and Dean Allison Gulati and the masks were removed from the store within 30 minutes of them being notified,” Fox News reported. The Muhlenberg Weekly said the student government also raised concerns about the masks.

The bookstore website lists only a single option for a mask with the school’s name on it.

While the school will not sell the masks, Harring said in her September 4 statement that the school has “great respect for law enforcement officers.”

“Supporting our campus law enforcement officers and working to become a more inclusive and anti-racist institution are not antithetical goals,” Harring said.

MORE: School district bans football team from carrying ‘thin blue line’ flag 

IMAGE: BorkaKiss / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Matt is assistant editor for The College Fix. He previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he also wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.

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