Teen's Racist Photo Ends Up in Yearbook & Somebody's Got Some Explaining to Do

black face yearbook photoTeenagers do a lot of obnoxious, insensitive things, but even they should know better than to joke around about something as serious as race. Apparently that’s asking too much, as a Washington state teen is making headlines for a yearbook photo that depicts her wearing blackface.


The teen was supposedly hanging out with her friends and playing around with bronzer when she got the idea to take a photo of herself in extremely dark makeup and then caption it with, “Do you think this is my color?”

black face yearbook

Advisers somehow didn’t catch the photo and it made it into the Shorewood High School yearbook and then onto social media, where the backlash began almost immediately.

The teen defended herself, saying she was only playing around and never meant to offend. Other students also chimed in, saying despite appearances, they don’t believe she was being intentionally racist. The school stopped handing out yearbooks once the controversy began and the district plans to apologize. The teen in question offered up her own apology on her Twitter account, but that has done little to stem the social media backlash, which according to reports has even gone so far as to include death threats.

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While threats and messages telling the girl to “go kill herself” are totally and completely unacceptable, the lesson that your actions have consequences is a valuable one. What the teen and her supporters don’t seem to understand is that intention means very little in these scenarios. Maybe she didn’t see it as racially charged and perhaps that’s not what she meant by the photo or the caption, but that doesn’t change that minority groups were offended by her actions and it doesn’t absolve her of responsibility for that. You can offend without meaning to, and you still need to own up to that.

As parents, we need to educate our kids about race and about the ways our words and actions affect others. There’s no excuse for someone in high school to be culturally and socially ignorant enough to think painting her face in extremely dark makeup and making jokes about color is a good idea, regardless of supposed intent. Conversations about race might seem overwhelming, but it’s dangerous and irresponsible to avoid them.

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It’s a failure on our parts not to have tough conversations with our kids about the way even small actions can be culturally insensitive and contribute to racism. If your kid doesn’t know the history of blackface and why it’s completely unacceptable, you’re not doing your job.

How have you talked to your kids about racism?


About the Author: Ashley Austrew is a freelance writer who loves tacos, Target, and screen time. Her work has appeared on Mommyish, Scary Mommy, Modern Day Moms, and more. You can read more on her website or follow her on Twitter.

Image via King 5 News

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