Re­ac­tion grows over stu­dent’s blackface video

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY CRESENCIO RO­DRIGUEZ-DEL­GADO cdel­[email protected]­nobee.com

Fresno Uni­fied has con­firmed one of its stu­dents is re­spon­si­ble for post­ing a racist photo and video spread­ing on so­cial me­dia.

The video and pho­to­graph shows the stu­dent wear­ing black makeup or paint. In the video, the girl says “Who said I can’t say n—?”

The stu­dent ap­par­ently took the selfie im­ages at home, ac­cord­ing to a Fresno Uni­fied spokesper­son.

The Bee is not iden­ti­fy­ing the stu­dent be­cause she is a mi­nor.

Chuck­ling is also heard on the video as the girl makes the racist com­ment.

Re­ac­tion to the im­ages has not been so light­hearted. Word of the in­ci­dent was slowly grow­ing af­ter Stacy Wil­liams, a com­mu­nity ac­tivist, posted about it to Face­book. She told The Bee that stu­dents had reached out to her with the im­ages as well as con­cerns from other cam­puses.

Wil­liams said she be­lieves the in­ci­dent re­flects on a cam­pus cul­ture at Fresno Uni­fied in which nu­mer­ous stu­dents of color don’t feel com­fort­able or safe. She added that the on­line racist in­ci­dent ex­tends be­yond so­cial me­dia and onto cam­puses.

“It’s got­ten to a point where peo­ple have tried and felt like there isn’t ac­count­abil­ity,” Wil­liams said, in ref­er­ence to com­plaints over racist be­hav­ior.

Wil­liams plans to hold a com­mu­nity meet­ing in re­sponse to the racist image but said de­tails are still be­ing worked out.

The post was gain­ing shares overnight and Satur­day morn­ing with peo­ple up­set over the girl’s ac­tions.

Such im­ages, of­ten re­ferred to as “blackface,” are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered of­fen­sive to black peo­ple and many Amer­i­cans be­cause they are rooted his­tor­i­cally to white su­prem­a­cist ide­olo­gies dat­ing far back as the 1800s.

One per­son on Face­book shared the im­ages di­rectly to Fresno Uni­fied Su­per­in­ten­dent Bob Nel­son.

Nel­son re­sponded with a lengthy state­ment, say­ing the stu­dent would be held ac­count­able. The su­per­in­ten­dent said the in­ci­dent does not rep­re­sent “our finest mo­ment” as a com­mu­nity.

In a state­ment pro­vided to The Bee, Nel­son said the dis­trict is pre­pared to be­gin a pro­gram to ad­dress the “cul­tural pro­fi­ciency” of dis­trict stu­dents.

“In­ci­dents of cul­tural in­sen­si­tiv­ity have the po­ten­tial of tak­ing our en­tire com­mu­nity to a very dark place,” Nel­son wrote.

“If we are to find the light, we have to change the nar­ra­tive and en­gage our youth in mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions that help them un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of their ac­tions, and the im­pact on our di­verse com­mu­nity.”

The in­ci­dent is sim­i­lar to other cases where stu­dents have shared racist mes­sages on so­cial me­dia.

In 2017, Clo­vis Uni­fied stu­dents shared Snapchat mes­sages about “slaves” in ref­er­ence to black peo­ple.

The school dis­trict held sev­eral com­mu­nity meet­ings to ad­dress the in­ci­dent. The stu­dent who ex­posed the mes­sages got death threats.

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