Teacher put on leave for wearing blackface to imitate Common on Halloween

The teacher is shown in a video posted to Twitter Friday wearing a white turtleneck and black jacket as Common did in a Microsoft commercial last year.

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By Janelle Griffith

A teacher at a California high school who wore blackface on Halloween while imitating rapper Common has been placed on administrative leave.

The unidentified Milpitas Unified School District staff member "chose to wear black face paint and satirically imitate a TV commercial and well known national social activist of the African American community," school board president Chris Norwood, who is African American, said in a statement Sunday.

Norwood said the staff member's actions were "inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive" and that he has asked the superintendent to ensure an immediate investigation is conducted.

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The Oct. 31 incident was widely condemned by such organizations as the NAACP of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators and San Jose African American Community Service Agency, among others, according to Norwood.

A teacher wore blackface to imitate rapper Common on Oct. 31 for Halloween at Milpitas High School in California.via Twitter

A video posted on Twitter Friday night appears to show the teacher standing at the front of a classroom, imitating Common, who is the face of a national advertising campaign for Microsoft’s artificial intelligence technology. The teacher wore a white turtleneck and black jacket, as Common did in a Microsoft commercial last year.

“Opportunities limitless, possibilities senseless, what will you do?” the teacher rapped in the video. “Millions of people, not enough to eat, what will we do? With A.I. Microsoft technology, the future — it's up to you. You can do it. With A.I., the future will blow your mind.”

The student who uploaded the video said the educator is white and teaches at “mhs,” or Milpitas High School that as of the 2017-2018 school year had a student body that was about 3 percent African American, according to state data.

The school board president said that the history of blackface reminds him of the cruelty, hatred and fear his parents and people of African ancestry have dealt with historically and still experience today around the world.

Milpitas Unified School District Superintendent Cheryl Jordan and Milpitas High School principal Francis Rojas said in a statement that the "disparaging" act of one of its staff members who chose to wear blackface on Halloween "adversely affected" the expectation that every student in the district and parent or guardian can have a safe environment in which they can feel respected and valued.

“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 statement said.

Caroline Radnofsky contributed.