In a world in which black youth like Tamir Rice have far too often fallen victim to gun violence, black parents are as vigilant as ever in protecting their own. So when 7-year-old Amonn Jackson came home from school with what appeared to be a bullet wound painted on his forehead, his mother, Zakiya Milhouse, was naturally alarmed.
“It looked so real in person, that it looked like something happened,” she told AL.com. “This actually happens to our black young men.”
Her son informed her that the makeup was applied in his drama class—presumably related to Halloween—in what Milhouse believes was an inappropriate school lesson.
“It was supposed to be a gunshot wound,” she said. “That’s when I got upset. A gunshot wound.”
She then took her frustrations to Facebook, where she posted a picture of her son with the caption, “So they did this in drama class and my boy said the teacher said it’s like he got shot. I don’t like that shit! I don’t care if it’s Halloween or NOT! A bullet hole in the head.”
Shortly afterward, she received a call from the school principal.
“He said this was unacceptable,” she said.
But when she spoke to Amonn’s teacher, she did receive an apology, just not the one she expected.
“He didn’t think it was a real big deal,” she said. “He said he did paint on different kids, such as black eyes. He said [he] was going to take it out of his lesson plan.”
Milhouse admits that she signed a permission slip giving the school permission to use makeup on her son in drama class, but contends that the school exercised poor judgment—especially taking into consideration the rampant gun violence plaguing our country.
“A bullet wound,” she said. “That’s too much.”
In response to this incident, Birmingham City Schools issued the following statement:
“Birmingham City Schools is aware of an image posted by a parent on social media depicting a wound on a student’s head. The student was participating in a theater class unit on stage, film, and special effects.
The teacher sent permission forms home with students making parents aware of the unit and requesting permission to put makeup on students.
Students were asked if they would like the makeup on their hands or faces, and this student chose his face. Students are never forced to participate, and they had the option to skip a design.
The teacher and principal called the student’s mother to apologize for the incident, and the teacher assured the student’s mother that no malice was behind the depiction. The teacher also stated that the only aim in teaching makeup techniques is to help students appreciate and understand the technical elements of performing arts.
As a culturally responsive school system, Birmingham City Schools takes issues like this very seriously and does not condone the graphic nature of this lesson on special effects. We regret any issues and perceptions this incident may have caused, and this portion of the lesson will be removed from the unit.”