A white high school educator has been placed on administrative leave after he wore blackface on Halloween and posed as the rapper Common.
The staff member at Milpitas High School, just north of San Jose, was placed on leave after video of his actions was shared widely on Twitter, prompting outrage from students and parents. In the video, the teacher imitated the artist’s rapping from a 2018 Microsoft commercial. The Milpitas Unified School District superintendent has launched an investigation into the actions of the educator.
Kerry Karrington, a junior at the school and vice president of the black student union, posted the video Friday afternoon. The educator, who has not been identified, is seen impersonating Common rapping in a commercial about artificial intelligence.
“I go to a very diverse school, so to see that he really thought that was OK and it was a joke, it really hurts. Especially being one of a handful of black people that we have at our school,” she told KTVU-TV.
According to Karrington, the teacher wore blackface for at least two school periods before faculty intervened.
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 teacher is heard rapping in the video.
In a joint statement issued Sunday, school principal Francis Rojas and Supt. Cherly Jordan criticized the actions while pointing to the community’s historic impact on nationwide integration efforts.
“In a school community where we welcome learners and families from over 50 languages who represent cultures and religions throughout the world, and where our longstanding neighborhood, Sunnyhills, was established as the first city in the nation for planned integration, it hurts to know that this type of cultural insensitivity and lack of cultural awareness still hovers in the background.”
The district’s school board President Chris Norwood deemed the actions of the teacher as “inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive,” and pointed to his own experience as a black man to underline the offense.
“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.”
The most recent school accountability report card for the high school shows that during the 2017-18 school year, the majority of students were Asian, making up 47.5% of the student body. Latino students accounted for 19.3%, white students made up 5.6% and black students accounted for 2.5% of the student body.
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