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Zulu Parade, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

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It’s hard to believe that blackface is still something people are doing, but this is where we are in 2018.

Case in point: An Atlanta charter school had to recently apologize for a Black history program that featured second graders with masks depicting blackface.

According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, at a Thursday performance, the Kindezi School at Old Fourth Ward  had children recite Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” all while holding up masks that looked like minstrel-show makeup.

The Dunbar poem, published around the start of the 20th century, begins, “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.”

After parents complained and a video of the performance went viral, the school issued a statement Friday to apologize and accept “responsibility for the hurt, anger, frustration and disappointment caused by the poor judgment we made in having students use masks that mimic blackface.”

They also said they are investigating the matter and are committed to making sure “this never happens again” by implementing “cultural competency” training for teachers.

For some parents, it’s a little too late.

One of them, Marcus Coleman, told CBS-46,“I thought it was damaging. I thought it was dangerous. Here we are in a climate where our kids are dealing with military warfare, but now psychological warfare as well … We don’t need to put our children in blackface to know we still have it bad as black folks.”

“The children have been rehearsing for months, dress rehearsals, staying after school … There’s no way in the world no one saw this. They allowed this to get on stage,” said Ari Lima, another parent who attended the program.

She added that the historical context of blackface as “a tool of oppressors” to poke fun or inflict harm was not part of the children’s presentation:

“I can’t even think of how the teacher may have looked at her white students and thought this was OK to put it in front of their faces.”

We can’t either.

This School Thought a 2nd Grade Blackface Minstrel Show Was a Good Idea in 2018  was originally published on