A second grader put on blackface to portray Martin Luther King for a class project. He was removed from class and the principal gave him the choice of washing off the paint or going home. His parents who were there to watch the projects being presented took him home. This is one where I as an educator am torn. On the one hand I sympathize for the child who just thought this was a way to get in character for a presentation honoring King. On the other hand, blackface is so loaded with symbolism. The way the news reports have presented the story it seems to have become a really confrontational incident. With the parents there avoiding that dynamic would have been tricky, but I wish it could have happened. In an ideal world this would have been handled in such a way I would not have read about it many places and thus would not be blogging about it.
In hindsight, I wonder if it would have been a good idea for the teacher/school to spell out limits for costumes and makeup, but that could be really hard. What about an afro wig for Frederick Douglass, what about feathers and buckskin for Sacajawea , what about eyeliner applied to make the eyes of a child playing Fred Korematsu look narrower? Is the line drawn at changing one’s skin tone? Besides, how in the world does one explain this to 2nd graders?