“I was pretty taken aback that not only did a student come to school dressed that way, it didn’t occur to anybody that that’s offensive.”
Angry complaints sparked after a Catholic school in Miami posted a photo of a student wearing blackface on its website and social media accounts.
The photo, which was taken during a February Black History month celebration, shows fourth-graders from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School dressed as famous African-Americans. One student, who portrayed former Secretary of State Colin Powell, painted his face black for the occasion, the Miami Herald originally reported.
The school posted the photo on Monday on its website and social media accounts, sparking outrage, and the photo has since been removed from all accounts due to the backlash.
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Victoria Freyre, an alumnus who attended the school in the 1990s, was shocked that no one noticed that the child’s costume was offensive.
“I was pretty taken aback that not only did a student come to school dressed that way, it didn’t occur to anybody that that’s offensive,” Freyre told the Herald. “It got to the point where they posted on a public online platform and nobody saw any issue with that.”
Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta told the Herald that the blackface was not supposed to be offensive and that the student’s costume was supposed to be “creative.”
Agosta didn’t think the teacher or any school administrators were offended by the use of blackface. “This was a project not only to celebrate Black History Month but also to understand the diversity,” Agosta told the Herald . “It was never the intention of a fourth-grade student to do anything other than be authentic in his presentation of the person he selected to research and imitate.”
In a statement to Newsweek, Principal Lisa Figueredo said the student’s “well-meaning attempt by a fourth-grade student to depict an American hero, former Secretary of State and general, Colin Powell was misinterpreted by some.”
“We apologize to those who took offense at a photo published on STA’s social media. It was never our intention to insult anyone or to propagate or endorse any racist agenda,” the statement reads.