How a Teacher's Halloween Costume Divided a Community
A Sutter Elementary School teacher was placed on leave this month for coming to school with a painted black face to represent "the night" as part of a Halloween costume. The incident has caused division among staff and parents in the Antioch Unified School District. Those in favor of the school board's actions say the teacher should have known her costume would be offensive. Defenders, however, say she meant no harm and should return to teaching.
"Regardless of what the costume was -- any black painted face really has such a strong ability to be very offensive, and very harmful to Black communities and communities of color," said school board trustee Antonio Hernandez.
Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker, who is Black, also chimed in.
"I get the intent," she said, "but the impact really devastated community members in a way where a lot of questions are being asked about who did she consult with before moving forward with what we all saw as blackface. This incident is just an example of how the district has not addressed issues around culture because this teacher should have absolutely known whether it's harmful or not that blackface is unacceptable."
Systemic racism is an issue that has already deeply impacted the Antioch community. Scores of Antioch Police Department employees were privvy to racist text message sent by APD cops, an investigation has revealed. In the messages, Black people were referred to as the N-word and gorillas, and threats of violence were made against Antioch’s Black mayor, Lamar Thorpe. Several current and former officers from Antioch were recently indicted by a grand jury on a multitude of charges, including excessive use of force.
The school district is currently investigating the "blackface" incident at Sutter.