Target: Sullivan District School Board President, Steve Poland
Goal: Dismiss principal who let high school girls don blackface for their school’s football game
A Missouri high school is getting national attention after a team of students painted their faces black for their charity football game. Sullivan High School puts on this event every fall, but according to the principal, the girls normally wear face paint in the school’s colors. Apparently they could only find black paint this year, so they decided to paint their faces black.
The school claims that none of the students had racist intentions and is calling this a “misunderstanding.” Even if none of the students recognized that they were in blackface, Sullivan High School Principal Jennifer Schmidt admits that she recognized the connection to the historically racist “entertainment” and decided to do nothing. She claims that she decided to just “let it go” because “no one thinks anything of it.” However, she also admitted that many of the photos of the game taken by the school were shot at a distance to hide the fact that the kids were in blackface.
It’s clear that Schmidt understood that something offensive was taking place, yet chose to do nothing. As an adult and an educator, this principal should be aware of the history of blackface and how it’s been used to mock and dehumanize black people. Because of this, allowing blackface during a sanctioned school event is absolutely unacceptable, especially when the nearby town of Ferguson is in turmoil over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Demand that Jennifer Schmidt be fired from her position on the grounds that she has proven herself unfit to guide and educate impressionable students.
Dear Mr. Poland,
I understand that there was a recent incident at Sullivan High School wherein some of your students put on blackface paint for the school-sanctioned powder-puff charity football game. It appears that though the students themselves may not have understood that wearing blackface is offensive, the school’s principal, Jennifer Schmidt, was well aware of the problem and, instead of having them remove the face paint, allowed them to go ahead and play the game as they were.
As an educator and person responsible for the well-being of hundreds of kids, Schmidt should be aware of the dehumanizing history of blackface. She should have considered the well-being of any black students who may have attended the game and been made to feel unsafe when seeing a bunch of white kids in blackface. This is especially true considering the ongoing protests in Ferguson and St. Louis over the racist treatment of black citizens by white police officers.
It does not appear that anyone has been disciplined for the incident. Though it may be true that the offending students did not realize that they were doing anything wrong, it’s clear that Principal Schmidt was well aware that they were in blackface. Her refusal to simply make the students wash the paint off shows that she is unfit for a role that requires her to ensure the safety of all students. I’m therefore writing to demand that Jennifer Schmidt be dismissed from her position and replaced with someone who wouldn’t allow such a blatantly racist and offensive thing to happen.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Orville S. Poland via Wikimedia Commons