A Miami preschool faced backlash from parents after a teacher allegedly put students in blackface to teach a lesson about Black History Month.
According to the Miami Herald, two parents from Studio Kids’ location in Miami’s Little River district sent in photos of the preschool toddlers covered in blackface and dressed up in costumes. The photos showed one student wearing a construction outfit with blackface and another student wearing a police uniform with blackface. It is unclear what the content of the lesson was.
Courtney Politis is a Black mother of one of the students in the teacher’s class where the alleged incident took place, and she was outraged. Her children weren’t present, but she was told by a parent that the assignment was for the students to dress up as different professions including a construction worker and police officer.
“You should know better as an educator,” Politis told the Miami Herald. “What else are you teaching our kids?”
Politis is just one of several parents that expressed their frustrations with the demonstrations. The pictures were shared in their parent group chat first last Friday, then Politis reached out to Studio Kids director Patricia Vitale through text message.
“This is racist,” according to Politis screenshot.
“I’m sorry?” Vitale responded.
“A lot of moms are very concerned,” replied Politis. Vitale then stated she was unaware of what was going on and replied, “What is racist?”
Vitale received a further explanation and proceeded to send out a mass text message to parents.
“We have not intended to offend anyone, and we are very sorry about any inconvenience,” said Vitale in a text message, according to screenshots. “The parents that know us, know that we have never had a bad intention in our institution.”
Politis is the only reported parent that has withdrawn her daughter from the school, but other parents spoke out to the media anonymously.
“It’s blatant and pure ignorance, or you just did it on purpose and you’re playing stupid, in my opinion,” Politis told local station WSVN.
A parent who wanted to remain anonymous said her child wasn’t part of the presentation but still thought it was inappropriate. Little River has three locations in Miami-Dade that primarily serve infants and toddlers. Two locations are in Little River and another one is in Buena Vista. The school where the blackface incident took place is primarily Latino including the teacher, according to the parents that spoke out. The tuition for the preschool is reported to cost up to $1,500 per month.
Andrea Queeley, an anthropology professor at Florida International University, says that she has studied Cuba, African diaspora and race.
“One of the arguments in Latin Americans make in defense of their anti-Blackness is that it’s cultural or that racism doesn’t exist, that it’s a problem in the U.S. where there was Jim Crow segregation and not the same interracial nation-building projects,” said Queeley.
Local station NBC Miami reported that Politis said the teacher apologized to her for the blackface incident and explained she is Argentinian and it was a cultural tradition in her country.
“I am shocked and somewhat destabilized,” an anonymous parent told the Miami Herald. “How do I trust them to make the decision about what to show my toddler?”
Vitale ensured that the situation was resolved but didn’t go into further details.
“The issue is resolved already; 80 percent of the families are okay,” Vitale told the Herald. She also stated that any further questions should be directed toward her lawyer.
Reactions from social media showed support for the parents and criticized the school for thinking this would be a good lesson.
“Is there such a teacher in the US that has been to college and studied the Civil War going to paint blackface on preschool children and think this is alright. That teacher should be removed and get a job away from teaching any children,” said Nathan in response to a Yahoo News post.