A southern Colorado second grader, Sean King, was reprimanded by his elementary school principal for dressing up in blackface because he wanted to resemble Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a class project. King’s family was reportedly up in arms when the child was asked to remove his blackface paint because it was racially offensive to some staff members, according to the KRDO-TV.
At the school’s Wax Museum Day festivities, Sean and his parents were waiting for him to perform. When the school’s principal realized that Sean was dressed in blackface, he ordered the child to wash his face. Sean’s mother, Michelle King-Roca, dismissed the principal’s request and demanded that he remain in his costume.
King’s parents were asked to meet with the principal and two school administrators in his office to discuss King’s blackface. Michelle was reportedly so upset by the administrator’s position that she pulled her son out of school for the rest of the day.
“As a parent I think it’s pretty sad that you’ve got a principal and a faculty member that are acting the way they are when they should be setting an example for children,” said Michelle.
King does not seem to understand the implications of his actions. He says he does not know why people are taking such offense to his costume. The child wore blackface, a fake mustache, and a dark suit (pictured).
‘They thought it was inappropriate and it will be disrespectful to Black people. And I say it’s not. I like Black people. It’s just a costume and I don’t want to insult anybody,” Sean told KRDO-TV.
The act of applying blackface has been an extremely volatile issue since the early 1800s, when White performers (pictured right) began rubbing burnt cork on their face during minstrel shows to portray African Americans in a negative way. Due to its roots, the use of blackface is deemed offensive.
Although the intent of King’s act might not have been hurtful, the school’s principal felt compelled to educate the Kings on the history of blackface. Still, Michelle reportedly insisted on maintaining her point of view.
“When other students are offended by something, it is the principal’s role that the educational environment is safe for all students,’ Stephanie Meredith, a spokeswoman for the school district, told KRDO-TV.
The district said King is allowed back at school, however, his parents are not sure they want him to return to school.