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King Center Responds To Face Paint Controversy

Published On: May 17 2012 02:51:29 AM CDT   Updated On: May 18 2012 02:52:29 AM CDT

A new twist in the face paint controversy over a white Meridian Elementary second grader wearing black face to portray Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Sean King was doing it for a school project.

I talked with Steve Klein from The King Center in Atlanta. This is an organization founded by Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King. It's literally all things Dr. King. Klein told me, "Sean seems to be a decent kid who wanted to honor Dr. King in some way. I think it would be good for the young man to understand and his family to also understand why there are still people who are offended by black face worn by white people."

Klein went on to say, "The issue here is stereotyping. A lot of African Americans find minstrel or black face stereotyping black people when it was done decades ago." Klein adds, "There is a disconnect here that young people need to know their history a little better." However Klein also believes that Sean King's admiration and wish to portray Dr. King is special in a different way. He says, "It's certainly good when millions of white children are studying Dr. King and admire him. That's a positive aspect, absolutely."

Meridian Elementary Principal Erica Mason is now trying to turn this into a teachable moment that Klein also believes can prevent future missteps in race relations. Mason is reaching out to the local chapter of the NAACP. She hopes to get a class up and running for adults and children. The class would focus on understanding stereotypes and why they can be offensive.

Click here to see pictures of Sean at the school's "wax museum" day.

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