There are ways to enact sensitive areas within America’s history without being disrespectful those treaty unfairly and unhumane because of the color of their skin.
One Atlanta Charter school was previously in the news for a Black History play gone wrong. The Kindezi Schools Old 4th Ward campus held a Black History play with second graders using blackface masks to reflect a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem. The usage of blackface in schools is something that has come up consistently through the last eight years. Just recently a blackface incident occurred in Miami. There was a recent incident in Michigan at a high school. It’s not limited to just k-12 but even our colleges are experiencing incidents.
We have a problem with unarmed Black males being shot anywhere by police because they “fit a profile!” We also have a problem with blackface incidents happening in schools. What message does this send to black children? You would think that due to current racial tensions in America that we reverted back to the 50’s and 60’s. Now, stories once shared by grandparents are slowing becoming our children’s reality. After the recent H&M ad and Dove commercial we would think that companies and organizations such as schools would be more culturally sensitive to things regarding race. However, it leaves me to ask, Is blackface still a mistake in 2018?
It’s not a mistake! That doesn’t make it a hate crime either. There is definitely a problem and for such schools as Kindezi in Atlanta there are incidents that happen because we didn’t approach the subject matter well. I believe we all can agree that the best way to fix a problem is to identify that there is one. In order for us to fix the issue of blackface incidents in schools, we must identify how it’s an issue and correct it. The secret sauce to education is teaching. If we teach people about sensitive subject area they are in a better position to choose a different or better choice of action.
Here’s a great case study I believe educational leaders should not only provide to their faculty and staff members, but their parents and students as well. If we don’t talk about blackface and teach students about its place in history, then the ideology behind why it was used will continue.
Myths about Blackface:
- Blackface is not simply face painting
- Blackface is cultural offensive even if you get a person of color to say, “It doesn’t offend me!”
- Blackface is not a cultural appropriate way of non students of color to show appreciation for blackness
- Blackface is not a celebratory at any given moment
Why Teaching About Blackface Matters:
- Youth are using blackface as a way to mimic and tease students
- Colleges and schools across the Nation are seeing increase incidents of blackface being used during Black History Month, Juneteenth and Halloween
- Blackface is being used to harass students who support various black lives matter support groups
- Cultural acceptance has made progress and we want to continue this work
Our schools play a critical role in helping to change race relations in America. The sitcom, A Different World, has a great episode on characters displayed throughout early 1900 American eras. Blackface and other cultural means of defamation to Black Americans are still hurtful. Usage of blackface inappropriately disregards the existence of black culture. Our skin color makes us different, not unique. Using Blackface inappropriately and disrespectfully reinforces the once American belief that those who have darker skin are less than. Our schools and our society should not accept or allow this message to continue. We cannot simply keep making excuses for incidents with blackface happening at our schools. We must use our resources through social studies, SEL, family engagement and school culture to help educate and reach out stakeholders. It takes a village to raise a child and schools to educate them. Let’s tackle the hard subjects, teach in transformational ways to make change.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.