Our View: Christmas play was not racist

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:10 AM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

The NAACP was incorrect in saying that a Christmas play at North Davis Preparatory Academy was racist in nature.

NAACP leader Jeanetta Williams has charged the Layton charter school with racism for having first-graders perform in blackface during the Christmas play. “The NAACP is outraged that students are being asked to dress in blackface for any situation regardless of circumstances. This should never be tolerated and the NAACP takes offense to this type of behavior. Regardless of the tale of this play, it is racist to portray such an act using blackface,” said Williams, NAACP Salt Lake Branch & Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, in a statement provided to the Standard-Examiner.

Using blackface in a play would be inappropriate and racist in nature, but this was not blackface. The charges are wrong. As the school’s principal, Deborrah Gomberg, explained, the children were respecting a Spanish holiday tradition that involves “smudgy-soot” face makeup. The soot on the children’s faces represents chimney soot, due to the tradition of three kings and their elf helpers moving down the chimney of homes and delivering gifts to children.

The principal is offering an apology if persons believe the school was clumsy in its presentation as part of its “Christmas Around the World” play. She adds that she wishes the NAACP had addressed its concerns with her prior to the incident initially receiving media coverage.

Accusations that involve racism are very serious. Racism is one of the worst offenses in our society. For that reason, it’s very important that people understand that the North Davis Preparatory Academy play was not racist. Also, charging racism when it has not occurred is counterproductive to tolerance. It can lead to hesitation and waffling, in which educators, and others, are hesitant to address provocative or once-controversial issues for fear of being labeled a racist. That kind of intimidation ultimately harms tolerance.

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