Administrators at Milpitas High School are investigating an incident in which a school staff member wore blackface over Halloween.
Students say the white teacher decided to paint his face in an effort to resemble the rapper and activist Common. Sean Nguyen said the man had been planning the costume for about a month before the holiday.
During his lesson on Halloween, he began rapping about artificial intelligence, students said.
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
“Millions of people, not enough to eat, what will we do? With AI, Microsoft technology, the future is up to you,” the man can be heard rapping in social media video.
Despite negative feedback from some students suggesting to not wear the costume because it might be perceived as insensitive of hurtful, the teacher still persisted, Nguyen said.
The man has been placed on administrative leave pending completion of an investigation by the school district. The Milpitas Unified School District released the following statement Sunday to parents:
“In a school community where we welcome learners and families…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.”
Chris Norwood, the MUSD school board president, called the teacher’s actions “inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive.”
“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,” Norwood said.
Norwood said it’s still too soon to decide if the teacher will keep his job at Milpitas High, but some students are saying a return to the school for him would be difficult.
“I don’t think he should be able to come back because a lot of people have already taken offense to him,” said student Ryan Harper. “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.”