A teacher in California was put on administrative leave after wearing blackface to impersonate the rapper Common for a Halloween costume.
Dressed in a black jacket and white turtleneck, the Milpitas High schoolteacher mimicked a series of Microsoft commercials in which the rapper and activist showcases the future of artificial intelligence. The teacher is white.
"Opportunities limitless, possibilities senseless, what will you do?" the teacher raps over a beat in a video shared on Twitter Friday.
The most-viewed clip among these Microsoft commercials on YouTube does not show Common rapping.
Sooooooooo... one of our WHITE teachers at mhs yesterday decided to paint his face so look like common the rapper yesterday. pic.twitter.com/1WudSddCLZ
- karrington (@karrington_kk) November 1, 2019
School officials are investigating the incident and condemned the teacher's actions, though they did not confirm the teacher's identity to USA TODAY.
A statement from Milpitas Unified School District Board President Chris Norwood, who is black, called the act "inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive." He said he asked for an investigation of the teacher.
"Milpitas Unified School District is home to (over 10,000) students of diverse cultural, language and socioeconomic backgrounds. We are surprised, disappointed with the action that has occurred," he wrote in a statement to USA TODAY.
Milpitas High Principal Francis Rojas, in a joint statement with district Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, said blackface "has a historical and present-day connotation of racism that demeans those of African ancestry."
"In a school community where we welcome learners and families from over 50 languages who represent cultures and religions throughout the world ... it hurts to know that this type of cultural insensitivity and lack of cultural awareness still hovers in the background," they wrote in the statement.
The Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP, told USA TODAY this incident speaks to a larger systemic problem at the local and national level.
"People are being empowered to take positions that are demeaning to other cultures," he said. "How can he be an example for students around him?"
Moore met with district officials Monday, who told him the school would conduct more ethnic bias and cultural sensitivity training. He said Rojas met with students who voiced their concerns after the incident.
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California teacher wore blackface for rapper Common costume, on leave