Milpitas High School put one of its high school teachers, David Carter, on administrative leave after a video on Twitter showed him donning blackface in class.
Carter, who is white, was allegedly imitating African-American rapper Common, a spokesman for Microsoft in a national advertising campaign.
“If anything, people were laughing before they got outraged because they were like: ‘That’s a terrible [imitation],” Milpitas High junior Karrington Kenney 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
According to Kenney, the economics teacher went through the first two periods of class without any incident on Halloween. During break however, Kenney said administrators told him to “clean it off.” “He should not have been able to get in the classroom at the beginning of school,” he said.
The video of Carter’s rap then circulated among administrators and students. Appalled with Carter’s actions, Kenney tweeted the video on Friday after receiving it from a classmate, stirring up a social media firestorm. “You wouldn’t expect something like this,” Kenney said. “Especially from a teacher. Why would anyone do that?”
Milpitas Union School District officials condemned Carter’s actions, though they have not confirmed his identity.
“The actions were inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive,” MUSD board president Chris Norwood, who is African American, wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, Blackface still permeates global society today through social media, comedy and fashion.”
Indeed, the flurry of photos of high-profile figures in blackface have renewed discussions about the racial implications and history of blackface, a theatrical makeup that white performers used in the 19th century to mock black people.
Earlier this fall, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau apologized for wearing blackface in high school. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey confessed to wearing the makeup in college. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also issued a mea culpa for wearing blackface in a school yearbook photo.
MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan and Milpitas High Principal Francis Rojas issued a joint statement, expressing their disappointment with Carter’s action.
“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 long-standing 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,” they wrote.
But Kenney said she never expected such an incident to happen at culturally diverse Milpitas High, where racist incidents seem few and far between. “It’s not like anyone has witnessed this type of thing,” she said. “My mom even attended there so many years ago and this stuff hasn’t happened.”