When does eye black become ‘blackface’? One California middle school student just found out

J.A., in how he appeared at the game, in a collage of eye blacked athletes. Credit: Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Athletes are known to wear black paint under their eyes to diminish glare. The eye black tradition has expanded, and many athletes wear more than a stripe of paint. Some wear a face full of eye black. It’s like wearing war paint, and athletes of all races do it.

But when J.A., a white middle schooler in California, put eye black paint on to show school spirit during a football game, he got suspended and forbidden from attending any further sporting events.

Here’s how it went down in California on the night of Oct. 13, when Muirlands Middle School student, J.A. attended a local high school football game in San Diego, during which many game attendees wore face or body paint. J.A.’s classmate painted J.A.’s face during the game and it was smeared across his face, throughout the game without anyone objecting. It was not minstrel style, however, and did not cover his forehead, nose or mouth area.

A week later, Muirland Principal Jeff Luna called J.A. into the office and suspended him for two days. The offense was “painted his face black at a football game.” The principal said the incident was “offensive comment, intent to harm.” The principal believed it was a case of “blackface,” or mimicking the skin color of black people.

Muirland Middle School Principal Jeff Luna

J.A.’s parents went to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression,” which helped push back o the suspension and punishment.

“By contrast,” FIRE told the school, “J.A. followed a popular warpaint-inspired trend of athletes applying large amounts of eye black under their eyes, which has no racial connotations whatsoever. There is no evidence that J.A.’s face paint caused any sort of disruption, much less a material and substantial one. His family says the school principal didn’t even cite any complaints about the face paint when meting out the punishment. As such, school administrators have no authority to discipline J.A. for his demonstrably nondisruptive and constitutionally protected expression.”

Check out memorable eye black moments at this Sports Illustrated link.

“As the First Amendment protects J.A.’s non-disruptive expression of team spirit via a style commonly used by athletes and fans — notwithstanding your inaccurate description of it as ‘blackface’ — FIRE calls on the school to remove the infraction from J.A.’s disciplinary record and lift the ban on his attendance at future athletic events,” the FIRE organizationwrote. “J.A.’s appearance emulated the style of eye black worn by many athletes … Such use of eye black began as a way to reduce glare during games, but long ago evolved into ‘miniature billboards for personal messages and war-paint slatherings.’”

Read about this case at Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.


    • Well Luna or perhaps “Loony tunes” is in California. Any time self described Liberals* are in charge of anything, you can bet on using bigotry, racism, and segregation to cause hurtful divisions and culling and calling out of the most innocent actions. What did this teach students? To be racist, Marxists I suppose.

  1. Black Face, in some cases, has been taken out of context. For Halloween in the 60’s and 70s my dad used to lineup kids in the garage and burn a cork and apply to obscure faces. “Black Face” was used to disguise your identity. Not to mimic a different race. Costumes were compiled from items in the house. The cork was used for mustaches, beards, eye shadow, dirt to mimic a bum, or yes even all over the face in an attempt to enhance and disguise. And it was never truly black. Intentional black face was much more exaggerated and obvious.

    • Principal Jeff Luna-tic.
      Will he be disciplined for messing w/ a 14 yr old for no reason.
      Guess the principal could claim insanity as a defense, since he has a bad case of liberalism. (Thank You Dr Savage)

    • Sorry Finetime, I meant to put this one under your comment:

      If your dad did that today he might be in court, charged w/ helping children ‘mimic’ homeless people (bums)

      Suzanne tell your new guy us old timers need an edit button please.

  2. While everyone should be ‘de-coupling’ from China, so should they ‘de-couple’ from public education and demand the allocated tax dollars, in the form of vouchers, follow the student as decided by the parent.

  3. Non-black people wearing black face paint is now deemed offensive by factions in our culture. Non-Mexicans wearing sombreros is viewed similarly. However, the 1st Amendement protects all such expressions. In fact, the amendment was established solely to protect expressions deemed offensive by many. Dressing as a clown in public is also a protected expression but yet to be deemed offensive. The growth of victim ideology will end badly.

  4. Stupid. Military face painting gets pretty stark. But it does make the glare recede. I’m so hurt and feel defiled by this. May I please receive my golden trophy right tho instant for my hurt feelings? This was another injustice I believe.

  5. Another case of a man listening Too Much to a woman or in this case women. I do feel sorry for one man working in a work environment being the only man in an office of women. So which woman at school got the man all worked up about paint on the boy’s face during a sports event? And husbands you don’t always must hang out with your wife all time, taking weekly or an hour out of the day to spend that time with the guys is okay too even having weekend retreat to a favorite game, fishing, hunting trips with only the guys while wife and kids are at home is okay too.

  6. Rob B: I share your idea of “de-coupling” from public education, but beware the voucher idea — it is still accepting money from the powers-that-be. Once we accept gov’t dependency for education, we WILL get gov’t control. Would you like Woke curriculum being demanded in exchange for a voucher? Of course not.

    The big fat problem is that public edu is constitutionally warranted in the now obsolete and reform-needed state constitution. Which of course was shot down by Soros money last year. It was written at a time when public edu was still neutral and praiseworthy.

    Guess who sponsored a bill for vouchers when he was a state senator? Dunleavy. He said there would be an IRON WALL protecting private and home-schooling families, but he was conveniently overlooking the power granted to the courts, a power that they do NOT possess, but he has proven that you need an executive with a spine to not enforce their unconstitutional tyranny. Ummm, his spine is like a chocolate eclair.

    Property tax relief for the families that do not use public ed would be a better way to go.

    • “Property Tax Relief” for those that do not use public education is something I can get behind. If we can stretch the envelope, I would definitely appreciate // support if this were “retroactively” applied too!!!

    • Toscano, you clearly do not know how vouchers work. Currently parents have no say over the curriculum and the state doles out tax money to the school districts on a formula basis. The property taxes we pay here in Anchorage are ON TOP of that! Then there is the federal education dollars. There is no accountability and the teacher lobby is strong getting funds for their pet projects.
      The ENTIRE point of vouchers is the allocated funds follow the student and the choice is up to the parents. If you want to go to a private school, the voucher will pay for that. If you want to home school the vouchers will pay for that too or if you want to go to one of the better performing public schools you voucher funds go there. This means that public schools will have to compete for those dollars and no longer get a “free” ride because our state constitution declares that the state is responsible for education. Education like road service, police and fire is a community responsibility and should not only be borne by the users. That being said, with a set voucher amount school districts will no longer be able to go begging to the state, because they can’t (or won’t) make a reasonable budget. That will save us all money.
      I am not certain where exactly the courts play a role in this once we have repealed the Blaine amendment in our constitution, which bars public funds for religious school and institute a voucher system.

  7. My God really?? Why are we giving this any traction at all?
    Exactly why this country is gonna lose it’s arse to our enemies. They are laughing at us because of this type of nonsense! More concerned about face paint than education and the kids having fun showing spirit for their school or teams.
    So hung up on race and trying to keep that narrative alive.
    Disgusting. Anywhere this crap tries to crop up anywhere in Alaska STOP IT in it’s tracks. This is a woke bunch of bs that either schools are being paid to run this agenda, or a nefarious person.
    Either way, I would not live in California for all the money in the world. Woke bunch of turds!

  8. This entire episode raises multiple questions:

    Why did it take a week for the principal to suspend this student?

    Why were parents not notified prior to the suspension?

    Why was this particular student single out?
    It sounded from the article that multiple students were involved. I think it is conceivable that others were suspended but did not fight the suspension.

    Why does this principal believe he has jurisdiction over district-wide sporting events?

    I do not believe for one minute that there wasn’t a complaint and that no district administrator was involved.
    Sounds to me like some snowflake went to the district complaining about hurt feelings and the bureaucrats bullied a child, because at the time that seemed easier and more expedient.



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