A number of Brick Township parents voiced concerns to school officials and over social media this week after a middle school student was allowed to wear what some felt was “blackface” as part of a costume during a school event.
The incident occurred at Veterans Memorial Middle School, where students were allowed to dress up to represent various figures during a school celebration. One student, who was purportedly portraying a Brazilian soccer player, appeared in a photograph with black makeup across his face that looked similar to the racially-offensive “blackface” makeup that was, in past times, used to lampoon African-Americans.
Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella said the student, whose name was not released and whose photograph Shorebeat pixelated with this story, did not intend to be offensive. Apparently, he said, the student applied to black makeup in a similar way that professional athletes darken the skin under their eyes, and other students smeared more on his face. Photographs circulated online, however, spurring numerous calls from parents asking why staff members did not recognize the sensitivity of the issue and order the makeup removed.
“It says something about our understanding of the issue if an adult can see something like that and not have a concern,” said Gialanella, who added staff members will be trained in future professional development presentations to better handle scenarios that include racial overtones. “It really is a serious breach that we need to address.”
“We’re not trying to hide it or sweep it under the rug,” Gialanella said of the controversy, explaining that students would also be learning more about actions that could offend others or be considered biased.
“I don’t think the student really had any understanding of what was happening, but that is a problem in and of itself,” Gialanella said.