It’s hard to believe that blackface is still something that people are still doing, but this is where we are in 2018.
Case in point: An Atlanta charter school had to recently apologize for a black-history program that featured second-graders with masks depicting blackface.
According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, at a Thursday performance, the Kindezi School at Old Fourth Ward had children recite Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” all while holding up masks that looked like minstrel-show makeup.
The Dunbar poem, published around the start of the 20th century, begins, “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.”
After parents complained and a video of the performance went viral, the school issued a statement Friday to apologize and accept “responsibility for the hurt, anger, frustration and disappointment caused by the poor judgment we made in having students use masks that mimic blackface.”
They also said they are investigating the matter and are committed to making sure “this never happens again” by implementing “cultural competency” training for teachers.
For some parents, it’s a little too late.
“The children have been rehearsing for months, dress rehearsals, staying after school … There’s no way in the world no one saw this. They allowed this to get on stage,” said Ari Lima, a parent who attended the program.
She added that the historical context of blackface as “a tool of oppressors” to poke fun or inflict harm was not part of the children’s presentation,
“I can’t even think of how the teacher may have looked at her white students and thought this was OK to put it in front of their faces.”
We can’t either.