A California teacher who wore blackface as a Halloween costume has been suspended and is now under investigation.
A video posted on social media showed the Milpitas High School teacher, who has not been named, imitating the rapper Common.
He wore a black jacket and white turtleneck with his face painted black as he ‘rapped’ the words from a Microsoft AI advert in which the rapper appears.
Hear about how the video was received here:
Following the teacher’s controversial stunt, Milpitas High School Principal Francis Rojas and Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Superintendent Cheryl Jordan released a joint statement describing the act as ‘disparaging’.
It is essential that every MUSD student and parent/guardian can expect to have a safe environment in which they can feel respected and valued. The actions of a staff member on Halloween adversely affected this expectation because of the choice to wear blackface paint.
See the teacher in class here:
Sooooooooo… one of our WHITE teachers at mhs yesterday decided to paint his face so look like common the rapper yesterday. pic.twitter.com/1WudSddCLZ
— karrington (@karrington_kk) November 1, 2019
The teacher has since been placed on leave and an investigation is underway, after which ‘appropriate action will be taken’.
The statement added:
In a school community where we welcome learners and families from over 50 languages who represent cultures and religions throughout the world… it hurts to know that this type of cultural insensitivity and lack of cultural awareness still hovers in the background.
It’s not clear whether the school took immediate action against the teacher after seeing him on Halloween, though the student who posted the video claimed he was ‘just told to clean up’.
The school just told him to clean up…
— karrington (@karrington_kk) November 2, 2019
Other Twitter users said he taught History at the school, with one pointing out ‘he knows exactlyyyyy the racial context and went through with this anyways [sic]’. The teacher’s position at the school has not been confirmed.
Chris Norwood, the MUSD school board president, called the teacher’s actions ‘inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive’ in a statement shared online.
District administration has placed the staff member on Administrative leave and I have asked the Superintendent to ensure an immediate investigation is conducted.
As an African American man, the history of Blackface reminds me of the cruelty, hatred and fear my parents and people of African Ancestry have dealt with in the past and still experience today around the world.
Some students have said the teacher would likely be treated differently if he returned to Milpitas High School, CBS News reports.
1/ Okay kids, gather around, it's story time.
The picture on the right is from a video of a teacher in California (currently suspended) in blackface who chose to rap to his students. In a report from CNN he made "an attempt to imitate the rapper Common." …bruh pic.twitter.com/Fbacz3WE8Y
— Garrick Vaughan (@GarrickVaughan) November 4, 2019
Student Ryan Harper commented:
I don’t think he should be able to come back because a lot of people have already taken offense to him. I think people might treat him a different way because of what he did. So, I don’t think this would be a good environment for him to be in.
Norwood has said it’s too soon to tell if the teacher will keep his job.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.