Teacher under investigation for showing up at school in blackface

The teacher has been placed on ‘home assignment’ and will be investigated

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 03 November 2021 21:06

Related video: Group in blackface costumes banned from annual parade

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A white high school teacher in Canada has been placed on "home assignment" and is facing an investigation after he showed up to school wearing blackface.

The school's principal told CNN that a business teacher at Parkdale Collegiate Institute near Toronto, Ontario, was using blackface as part of a Halloween costume on Friday.

A student speaking with CNN said the teacher's use of blackface made them uncomfortable. The student's name has been withheld at the request of their parents.

"It was really uncomfortable and disgusting and yeah, it was weird," the student said. "I didn't really feel attacked because I'm not Black. But like, even as a white person. I was like, this is totally gross."

Julie Ardell, the school's principal, wrote a letter to parents explaining the situation.

"On behalf of Parkdale CI, I acknowledge and regret the harm this incident has caused to students, staff and families and our shared school climate," Ms Ardell wrote. "At our school, we are committed to creating a teaching and learning environment that is equitable and inclusive for all students, staff and families. While we have begun the work of addressing anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination, it is clear that we must do more."

Blackface was a practice used in mid-19th century minstrel shows in which performers would darken their skin with polish, put on raggedy clothing and exaggerate their features to resemble caricatures of Black people.

Many early minstrel shows made light of enslaved Africans, generally depicting them as lazy, stupid, cowardly and promiscuous, according to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

"It was really weird," the student speaking to CNN said. "And then we went down for like this kind of like an assembly thing, all the grade nines for Halloween, and (the teacher was) just walking around in blackface and teachers are just walking around (the teacher), they're not even talking to (the teacher) about it and I thought 'what is happening?'"

Ms Ardell condemned the use of blackface in the teacher's costume.

"Caricatures of peoples' race or culture are not appropriate and are offensive and hurtful," she wrote in the letter. "Regardless of whether this was intended or not, it was racist and dehumanizing."

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