Video circulating from this past Halloween shows Milpitas High School (MHS) teacher David Carter wearing a costume revolving around blackface while presenting a lecture in a voice intended to caricature that of the famous rapper Common.
Carter has been placed on leave while education officials investigate the incident.
Blackface is an American tradition begun by white Americans that is rooted in racial animosity and stereotyping. It relies on exaggerating and distorting the features, behavior, and culture of African-Americans by way of cartoonish costuming and conduct.
Originating in New York in the 1830s, blackface was the backbone of minstrel shows wherein white performers darkened their skin using shoe polish or burnt cork. Minstrel show scenarios mocked black people while depicting them in states of servitude or enslavement. In the process, the shows framed African-Americans as ignorant, immoral, and lazy.
This past year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under fire when photos of him in blackface emerged from his past. Similar imagery, and scandal, came about with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring at its center. Both men are left-leaning officials and were pressured to resign, but neither man did.
Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) School Board President Chris Norwood expressed the following in a statement:
“As an African-American man, the history of Blackface https://www.history.com/news/blackface-history-racism-origins 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.
“Unfortunately, Blackface still permeates global society today through social media, comedy and fashion https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/02/22/blackface-gucci-prada-zara-burberry-fashion-most-controversial-designs/2926837002/ .
“Regional organizations such as the NAACP of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators, San Jose African American Community Service Agency, Ujima, Silicon Black Chamber of Commerce and A Black Education Network (ABEN) and many others were created to be powerful voices of advocacy and justice while simultaneously educating, equipping and empowering governance leaders, teachers, professionals, parents and children of African Ancestry and other ethnicities connected to the struggles of racism and inequity.
“In our schools, classrooms, homes, community, places of worship and work we must diligently continue to utilize the lessons of history to eliminate negative stereotypical biases and pursue the necessary restorative actions whenever and wherever possible.”
In a separate statement, MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan and MHS Principal Francis Rojas wrote:
“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…
“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.”
The Milpitas Beat has reached out to David Carter for comment, but received no reply.