Blackface classroom rap lands California teacher on suspension, school says

A Northern California high school teacher has been put on leave after a video went viral online showing a staff member in blackface performing a rap on Halloween.

The Twitter user who shared the video on Friday wrote that a white teacher at Milpitas High School “decided to paint his face (to) look like Common the rapper yesterday.”

The 23-second clip, in which the teacher raps about artificial intelligence, had been viewed more than 300,000 times as of Monday afternoon.

Principal Francis Rojas and Milpitas Unified School District Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said in a letter to parents that the incident “was disparaging to our students, parents, colleagues and the Milpitas community we serve. Our Human Relations team has placed the employee on leave and appropriate action will be taken pending further investigation.”

The school hasn’t disclosed the name of the teacher involved, according to NBC Bay Area, which reports that the NAACP “is now demanding an investigation into the incident.”

The student who posted the video on Twitter, 16-year-old Karrington Kenny, vice president of the school’s Black Student Union, said the teacher should be fired, according to the Mercury News.

“It’s harmful, it’s hurtful, it’s not the right environment for a student of color to see their teacher perform like that,” Pastor Jethroe Moore of the NAACP said, according to NBC. “Political figures have lost their jobs for wearing blackface 10 years ago. To have someone do it today is totally unacceptable.”

School board President Chris Norwood said that “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 Los Angeles Times reported.

Kenny said that “I just want to know his reasoning behind doing what he did,” according to the Mercury News.

“According to Karrington, the teacher wore blackface for at least two school periods before faculty intervened,” the LA Times reported.

“We are committed to strengthening our school environment through culturally relevant and respectful education designed to address prejudice and racism so that we can prevent bullying and harassment,” school leaders said in their letter to parents and the community.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.