Sean King, the southern Colorado second-grader who was reprimanded by his school principal for coming to school in blackface to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not going down without a fight. He, and his parents, are demanding an apology from the school for the “mean” way that he was treated, reports Huffington Post.
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As previously reported by Newsone, King, who is White, was told to remove the black face paint because the staff and other parents found it racially insensitive. The children were asked to dress as famous people for the school’s Wax Museum Day. Sean’s mother, Michelle King-Roca, refused to accept the principal’s request and demanded that her son remain in costume. When King’s parents were asked to meet with administrators in the principal’s office, she was so upset that she pulled her son out of school for the rest of day. As it stands, she’s trying to determine if he should even remain there at all.
“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 King-Roca.
At the time, Sean was very upset by the reaction to his costume.
“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.
Now, the spirited second grader is fighting back and demanding that the school apologize.
“It’s about them being mean to me and my family. My mom ran out of the room crying,” he said.
“The superintendent said that the words that MLK said were the most important. We didn’t need face paint. I said OK, if we don’t need the face paint then why do they have to dress up in costumes for the school project,” said Anthony Roca, who is Sean’s father.
“They were really negative to me and wouldn’t tell me what the consequences were of refusing to take off the face paint,” said Sean King.
“The superintendent said he wasn’t going to discuss this with an 8-year-old,” said Roca as he described the superintendent’s response to his son.
While I do understand what King and his parents are saying, the superintendent is correct. There is no need to dress in blackface to capture the essence of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr — especially when it wasn’t even close to resembling his complexion. Blackface is more than a “costume,” it is a symbol of racial subjugation, iconic imagery from an era when “tar-baby,” “coon,” and “nigger,” were spoken with ease and defined by the oppression they represented.
All across the country, Native-Americans have requested that “Braves” and “Chiefs” not be used as mascots for sports teams. It would be reprehensible for a child to come to school dressed with a swastika on his shirt to discuss the Holocaust. Black Americans have the same right to voice their concerns over imagery that is culturally insensitive and I applaud the principle for making such a complicated call. There’s progression and there is whitewashing, King’s school moved in the direction of the former with their decision.
Dr. King would be proud.
As for an apology? Sean, I’m so sorry that you haven’t been taught cultural sensitivity at home, because I truly don’t think you meant any harm. Consider this your first lesson.