Eye Black, Football and High School

I’m taking a lot of flack for thinking that a teenage boy shouldn’t paint his face black for a football game.

Servite is a High School in Anaheim, CA. They have a very good football team and (I now find) a less than stellar reputation.

High School Athletics in California are still left to teachers. Teachers in California (as opposed to Coaches in adulthood) are responsible for turning out well rounded young men and women. Ideally a school will also teach kids that they are lucky to be part of a community and they can add great things to it.

Perhaps I wasn’t completely clear in my post last night.

When a High School Football Coach sees a child paint their entire face black (eye black or not I don’t care) that coach has an obligation to the child to take him aside and explain to him what painting one’s face black used to symbolize. The coaches failed the children. The coaches failed the parents, whose money they gladly accept.

If the point of High School is education, then Servite is a failure. If the point of High School is playing football games, Servite has been magnificent.

I realize some NFL players use eye black in an excessive and decorative pattern, but I’ve yet to see an NFL player cover their entire face in eye black. The argument that this child is imitating NFL players is false. There has never been an NFL player that has completely covered his face in eye black.

Chris Hovan is well known for wearing excessive and “menacing” eye black. Does this look like he’s painted his entire face?

The real issue is that this is High School. Ostensibly athletics are there to support academics. I’m curious if a history teacher was on hand, and if they gasped a little when they saw their student?

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21 Comments

  1. Are we sure he painted his entire face? It appears he might have been sweating and it running over his face, not to mention he probably wiped his face a few time and it smeared. I don’t see anything online about this being racist..it sure was funny in tropic thunder.

    this seems to be an attempt to create drama where there is none…but maybe it will catch on and we will have something to talk about since tiger woods is getting boring.

    lastly, that screen shot above, if intended to show that simply typing the high school name brings up racist as the second choice…never mind that can’t possibly be what that is intended for.

  2. Jessica,

    I think you are stretching here in a bunch of different places.

    The argument that this child is imitating NFL players is false.
    How do you know what this kid was thinking or what his intentions were. Without speaking with him there is no way that you could know. I’ll be the first person to say that good intentions don’t mean that actions cannot be harmful.

    I was pissed off about the Hitler cafe in India. I said at the time that I think it was wrong and ignorant. It was clearly overboard.

    To me this one is a bit murkier. I don’t find it to be as clear cut. People go overboard all the time. I can’t say what this kid meant to do. I don’t know what his intentions were. There isn’t enough here for me to shout racism.

    I won’t say that it is not possible that you are correct, but there isn’t enough information. Reminds me of a time as a high school senior where we came across a building that had a swastika on it.

    We were outraged and demanded that it be removed. That is when we learned that the owners were Hindus and that it had meaning to them that had no relationship to the Nazis. But I’ll save the topic of whether symbols can be co-opted for a different time.

  3. You keep telling the rest of them to shove it, Gottlieb. This kid was out of line and so were the parents and teachers that didn’t check his behavior earlier. Even if the kid’s intent was innocuous, the long-standing cultural expectation for blackface is just too loaded. I suppose that the people who are not bothered by this are also not bothered by banking jokes about Jews, because you know, it’s all in good fun. There’s a time and a place for bad/ugly jokes and this wasn’t one of them.

    • ag

      “There’s a time and a place for bad/ugly jokes and this wasn’t one of them.”

      So when it is it OK to make bad jokes about Jews in banking and when is it OK to wear black face? Maybe if you call ahead to the kid he will schedule his racism at a time that is more convenient for you, so you can both be in on the joke.

      Hypocrite! You sicken me.

      • I’m Jewish and my Jewish family and friends make occasional bad Jewish jokes among ourselves. I would venture to guess that most groups of people do something similar, and it’s more likely those who won’t to admit to such behavior are the real hypocrites.

        • person

          So you do not believe in equality?
          Because last time I checked racism was wrong all the time.
          But I guess when I am racist against my own people I guess its ok. Right?
          If he is partially black then, according to you, it was not wrong.

          Do not judge and do not focus on things in the past because if you want the world to progress do not focus on the differences but on the similarities.

  4. Matt

    The only thing the kid should have been punished for is not putting in his full effort. That is terrible blackface. Where are the oversized red lips? The happy-go-lucky attitude? The stereotypical speech? The singing and dancing? If he’s gonna go, he should go all out. That’s the lesson we should be teaching our kids. Honestly, it looks like he just put on too much face paint and it smeared around from sweat in the course of a physically exhausting football game. Poor effort, young man, poor effort.

    • jeff

      Matt’s comment is worthy of praise. This gentleman obviously has been schooled and parented properly as to pass along his genius to future generations. His response to this bogus accusation of Blackface should be in textbooks and learning centers all over the United States and even translated to reach all cultures and civilizations as a sampling of how to set everyone straight when making a response to such hurtful character judgments as was crapped out from this malicious spirit of which had obviously possessed this woman whom, I am so thankful to God, is at this time not my Mother or Teacher. How embarrassed she must feel now by continuing to battle the resounding wave of disagreement towards her tcraft-filled theory. And I shall dare to say, that Mr. Matt’s response may settle with some to serve as an example of advanced rhetorical style possibly learned in a high school similar to that of Servite from years past. I feel that it successfully defused a volatile and explosive subject matter by means of humor and tact while keeping the important human development attribute of effort moving forward. Moreover, I believe, this knee jerk, non researched character judgment originally fathomed from this overly acuminous woman is unworthy of the many educated responses produced. Hence, I felt compelled to post my comment in representation of the lesser academic types that could easily break the glass on the stupid meter, but still have enough common sense that this was no Case for Blackface. Woman, please before you are ruined, stand up by standing down.

  5. While I see why other people might think you are stretching here, I’d have to agree with you. The boy probably did not have bad intentions. After all, he is in high school. Honestly, I didn’t learn about blackface until college. He probably was just imitating NFL players, but went overboard, as another commenter mentioned. The problem here in my opinion, is that nobody said anything. Not his coach, not a teacher, not another student, not a team member. In fact, most of them probably thought it was awesome, intimidating and different. In a community full of white people, it probably didn’t come to mind that this might be offensive. The boy shouldn’t be punished for his actions, as he probably didn’t know much better, but I think it is a problem that needs to be called to attention and I thank you for showing this to me.

    • Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

      You do realize that many of Servite’s coaches and players are black right?

  6. Tom

    Jessica, is it true that you used the phrase, “let’s call a spade a spade”, in the past as a commenter pointed out in your original post pointed out? If so, did you explain why you would use a phrase in which it’s origins were as a deragatory racial term? Does that suggest you have a history of insensitivity when it comes to racism? Probably not. More than likely you were ignorant of the term’s past. Was there a teaching moment that you undertook afterwards?

    My point is you that are not in fact interested in anything but having an axe to grind with this school. This point of contention you brought up is nothing but self serving for you & that is shameful to use high school kids to push your agenda.

    After all is said & done let’s call a spade a spade right?

  7. Wesley Chang, MD

    Jessica, I understand what you are trying to say. I understand the offensive nature of “blackface” and its minstrel show/racist origins. I think the uproar by all the posters who are in disagreement with you is brought about by one simple fact: this is not really a case of someone using “blackface”. I think you have to look at the characteristics, the context and the intent of the act before you can label it as such. Just as Sir Laurence Olivier wearing black face makeup when he is portraying Othello does not truly constitute “blackface”, I don’t think this situation is truly an instance of “blackface”. These kids were just trying look more menacing and painted their faces in their school color in the context of what was for them an important game. They were not behaving in a derogatory manner and their actions carried no racial overtones. If you watched the entire game, you would have seen that 1) there were many different styles of face painting by many of the players, 2) there were African American coaches and players, none of whom seemed to be offended, 3) there were players of all colors who participated in the face painting.

    BTW, Servite has an excellent reputation for producing fine young men who are sensitive to all issues, racial or otherwise. I know because my daughter married one.

  8. Tony McCanta

    As I mentioned on your other post, Servite’s coaching staff has an excellent tradition and reputation of using football to educate young men. More than half of their coaching staff is of African-American heritage. Instead of proclaiming their “failure” to your readers, I suggest that Ms. Gottlieb should contact the staff and inform them personally of their failure. I’m sure they’d welcome her judgement of them, with all of her vast experience and knowledge in educating young people.

    Those associated with this school and this team know that their staff and this school routinely succeed.

  9. Drew

    Jessica,
    Your blatant hatred of the Servite community disgusts me. The fact that you, at one point in your uneventful, boring life, felt it your responsibility to insult a Servite student-athlete is pathetic. your clear ignorance of what blackface is and your disrespectful, judgmental attitude is despicable.
    What makes you think that you can accuse a student at our school of something as severe as racism without any sort of basis?
    i believe that you should come to our school, personally apologize to the student and the student body in our auditorium, along with all of the parents and grandparents that you’ve offended in your past posts, and shut down your blog.
    reap the repercussions of your irresponsibility and stop creating trouble just because you feel like your uneducated voice should be heard.

    Love,
    Drew

  10. Labrat

    Jessica: You are just plain wrong!

    First, the “excessive eye black” has nothing to do with race. Servite has several black players and several black coaches. None of them took offense to the wearing of eye black whether excessive or not.

    The player in the photo is in fact mexican. He is the biggest lineman on the team and most often, at the coin toss at the beginning of the game, he alone represented Servite at center field. I suspect that a 320 pound lineman, in all black uniform with his face painted, might be intimidating to the 4 or 5 opposing captains. Intimidation is not racist.

    Contrary to your assertion that Servite has “less than a stellar reputation,” I would point out that Servite was just honored by CIF as “A Champion of Character School” please see the following from the Servite website:

    “The CIF-SS “Champion for Character School” was awarded to Servite based on a recommendation that cited our school as “exemplifying the finest sportsmanship, character, integrity and athletics”. Servite was selected from a pool of all 576 schools that make up the CIF Southern Section.” Stellar? Racist?

    Check the facts. Don’t just go out a smear a GREAT school based upon your mistaken and uninformed view or opinion.

    CREDO!

    Proud Servite parent and graduate.

    • Toolbag82

      I know my cousin went here and I don’t know what she is saying they have some of the nicest people and the best leaders

  11. yaya

    I guess Kiss is acist because hey painted their faces

    Peter Chriss obviously wanted to put cats down

    • Note: “yaya”, “person” and “anybody” are all from the same IP address within a few moments of one another. Assume they are the same person.

  12. Kellum Sowers

    Good News.  Its now illegal to wear eye black like what is above according to the National Federation of High Schools.  Also illegal in NCAA.

    • That is good news indeed.

      The only news that could be better would be if coaches felt compelled to teach our children why some things are appropriate and others aren’t.

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