A young student stands outside of school doors.

A Miami Preschool Teacher Thought It Would Be a Good Idea ‘Celebrate’ Black History Month by Putting Kids in Blackface

This is the deepest level of WTF

A teacher at a Montessori school for young children in Miami, Florida reportedly put toddlers in blackface and sent pictures to parents, proudly thinking it was a good way to “celebrate” Black History Month. A parent at the school, Courtney Poltis, says she learned about this WTF moment via her mom-friend, whose child is in the class in question, who texted her the pictures in disbelief of what was happening. 

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Poltis said her mom-friend received pictures of kids dressed as a construction worker and (ahem) a policeman with their faces smeared with dark brown paint. She apparently got them from her child’s teacher via the classroom messaging app. Screenshots show that the caption simply read, “Black history month,” with no other context or explanation according to CNN. 

Holy mother of yikes, how could anyone be this dense? That’s my first question. My second question would be, is it possible the teacher is not actually dense enough to think it’s culturally supportive to put non-black kids in blackface makeup and actually did it as a weird, offensive microaggression? And just a side point, I saw the screencaps, and my youngest kid’s school uses the same messaging app. I just want to say that her school usually sends over pics of her coloring or building with blocks or something pretty basic like that, you know, for comparison. 

Poltis, who gave interviews to both CNN and TMZ, said she immediately got in touch with the director of the school, Patricia Vitale, to let her know the incident was racist and that it was inappropriate. Poltis says Vitale didn’t immediately understand why it was a big deal and asked Poltis to explain her problem with the use of blackface on 2-year-olds. 

However, Vitale then wrote a brief message home to parents, saying “We have not intended to offend anyone, and we’re very sorry about any inconvenience,” her message said. Is this kind of racism, unintended or not, really best described as an “inconvenience?”

Vitae seemed to have understood the severity of the situation a bit more after it sunk in, because three days later, a statement went out to parents assuring them they would be going through sensitivity training: “We wanted to let all the parents know that we met on Friday afternoon with all the teachers and staff. We went over several ethical and multicultural education points. I will teach the team a class covering all the necessary topics regarding US history and multicultural education … you may rest assured this will never happen again,” the message read. 

If I was a parent there, however, I’m not sure I would be happy with Vitale, the one who didn’t understand why blackface was a big deal, teaching the sensitivity training. Poltis said she is not aware of any serious consequences the teacher, who she did not name, is facing. 

(featured image: Shopify Partners from Burst)


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Author
Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.