A high school teacher in California has been placed on administrative leave after wearing a racist costume to school for Halloween. The unnamed staff member painted his face black and went as rapper and actor Common. School board president Chris Norwood issued a statement about the incident on Sunday.
“The action(s) were inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive,” Norwood wrote. “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,” he continued.
The teacher was caught on camera standing in front of a classroom and doing an impersonation of Common from one of his Microsoft commercials. The clip was shared on Twitter by 16-year-old student Karrington Kenny, who confirmed to The Mercury News that the man in the video is a teacher at the school.
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
Kenny is the head of the school’s Black Student Union, and she says the teacher needs to be fired for his actions. “In this community, we honestly don’t have room for people, especially people who want to dress up in blackface, to come in here and still try to educate people on topics like this. That doesn’t make sense that he gets to stay, and continue working there when he thought this type of behavior was appropriate,” Kenny said
“He really didn’t have to do blackface in order to represent somebody. He really should have known better, especially him being a former history teacher,” she continued.
District superintendent Cheryl Jordan and Milpitas High School principal Francis Rojas issued their own statement about the incident on Sunday.
“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.
"Blackface paint has a historical and present-day connotation of racism that demeans those of African ancestry. The act was disparaging to our students, parents, colleagues and the Milpitas community we serve. Our Human Relations team has placed the employee on leave and appropriate action will be taken pending further investigation,” the statement read.