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Teacher who wore blackface admits he made 'horrible mistake'

Robert Salonga and Joseph Geha, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- David Carter, the Milpitas High School teacher who was widely scorned for wearing blackface to school on Halloween to look like rapper-activist Common, said Thursday that he was shocked by the reaction but now realizes he went too far and wants to return to work because "my students need me."

Carter dressed up as Common, complete with a bald cap and dark face makeup, on Oct. 31, and a video clip of his class that day -- shared online by a student who received it in a message -- has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter, garnered national news coverage and spurred wide-ranging discussions on campus about the racist history behind blackface.

He has been placed on paid administrative leave while the school district conducts an internal investigation.

Carter, 48, said in an interview he was "caught up" with emulating Common's "Microsoft AI" ad campaign to motivate his engineering students and did not fully realize his bad judgment until the intense backlash.

"I was shocked by the reaction, and I'm less shocked now," Carter said. "In hindsight, what I did was not right, and I own that. That is my error and my mistake, and I am deeply sorry for what I've done to create large divisions."

On Thursday, Common himself weighed in, telling NBC Bay Area he is willing to meet with Carter.


"I'd meet with him, to educate him; he's a teacher," Common told the station. "I'll break it down to him. It's a moment we can teach and learn from."

Carter this week met with the local NAACP chapter's vice president, Bob Nunez -- also a Milpitas City Council member -- to explain why he did what he did.

Nunez said in an interview he came away from that meeting with lingering questions.

"The right words were all there, but the right words don't mean, to me at least, that it will carry the day," he said. "There's a lot more to look into. He was on campus with blackface, so some adults had to have seen him. Let's see what else there is."


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