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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

Darienne Watson, 18, who graduated from Milpitas High School in June and had Carter as a teacher her senior year, condemned the school and district response of making Carter wash off the offending makeup but letting him continue to teach that day. District Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said in hindsight he should have been sent home immediately.

Watson said the absence of a more forceful response was reflective of the fact only a little more than 2% of Milpitas High's student population is black.

"What's infuriating is that the school just told him to clean off his face ... and go about his merry day," Watson said. "They aren't black, so they aren't infuriated. They're just trying to get this done and covered up and cleaned up as quickly as possible."

Carter said he saw the message of the Microsoft campaign, highlighting the positive effects of artificial intelligence, as a way to inspire his students about their potential to become engineers. His goal was to transform into Common through voice, dress and, ultimately, physical appearance.

"I should not have done the makeup. That was too far," he said. "I got caught up in it."

Carter said he consulted beforehand with his students about the costume, but it was not clear whether they fully understood the extent to which he was going with it.

 

Karrington Kenny, the 16-year-old Milpitas High School student who posted the video to Twitter after it was sent to her, finds Carter's explanation hard to believe.

"When you're painting your face black, did it never cross his mind at all that this is a bad idea, that this could hurt people's feelings, that this is racist?" she said.

Watson said when she found out about the controversy, it didn't totally surprise her.

"It's just not the first time he's done something specifically ignorant towards his black students," Watson said. "He would say really, really inappropriate things, and I would look over at my fellow classmate who is also black, and we would just pause for a second, because we'd be taken aback, and we'd be like, 'Whoa, we're probably going to let that one go.' "

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