Photos of Fresno Unified student in blackface cause backlash online

A screenshot of a racist photo and video of a Fresno Unified student is shown. The girl’s face has been blurred.
A screenshot of a racist photo and video of a Fresno Unified student is shown. The girl’s face has been blurred.

Fresno Unified has confirmed one of its students is responsible for posting a racist photo and video spreading on social media.

The video and photograph shows the student wearing black makeup or paint. In the video, the girl says “Who said I can’t say n—?”

The student apparently took the selfie images at home, according to a Fresno Unified spokesperson.

The Bee is not identifying the student because she is a minor.

Chuckling is also heard on the video as the girl makes the racist comment.

Reaction to the images has not been so light-hearted. Word of the incident was slowly growing after Stacy Williams, a community activist, posted about it to Facebook. She told The Bee that students had reached out to her with the images as well as concerns from other campuses.

Williams said she believes the incident reflects on a campus culture at Fresno Unified in which numerous students of color don’t feel comfortable or safe. She added that the online racist incident extends beyond social media and onto campuses.

“It’s gotten to a point where people have tried and felt like there isn’t accountability,” Williams said, in reference to complaints over racist behavior.

Williams plans to hold a community meeting in response to the racist image but said details are still being worked out.

The post was gaining shares overnight and Saturday morning with people upset over the girl’s actions.

Such images, often referred to as “blackface,” are generally considered offensive to black people and many Americans because they are rooted historically to white supremacist ideologies dating far back as the 1800s.

One person on Facebook shared the images directly to Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.

Nelson responded with a lengthy statement, saying the student would be held accountable. The superintendent said the incident does not represent “our finest moment” as a community.

In a statement provided to The Bee, Nelson said the district is prepared to begin a program to address the “cultural proficiency” of district students.

“Incidents of cultural insensitivity have the potential of taking our entire community to a very dark place,” Nelson wrote.

“If we are to find the light, we have to change the narrative and engage our youth in meaningful conversations that help them understand the significance of their actions, and the impact on our diverse community.”

The incident is similar to other cases where students have shared racist messages on social media.

In 2017, Clovis Unified students shared Snapchat messages about “slaves” in reference to black people.

The school district held several community meetings to address the incident. The student who exposed the messages got death threats.

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Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He grew up in Porterville and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State. He is a former student editor at the Fresno State and Fresno City College newspapers. His hobbies include reading, sleeping, running and taking care of his dog.