MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two Columbia High School students in New Jersey who dressed up in blackface said they meant it as a joke.
The social media post comes on the heels of another incident in the school district described as anti-Semitic.
CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported that two girls from the Maplewood-South Orange School District posted a photo of themselves in blackface on Instagram last year, but someone screen-grabbed it and reposted it recently.
“The two girls, in the moment, had no idea of what blackface was or the history of it,” said the mother of one of the girls, who asked to remain anonymous.
“In a moment of play, they were doing facial scrub and they realized they looked darker and they pretended to be rapper guys who they admire very, very much,” the mother said. “And the tag line they put on was what a rapper guy would say about another rapper guy and they just didn’t realize that they were appropriating a culture that was not theirs to appropriate.”
Students said what the two girls did was wrong.
“They thought it was a joke, but it was not funny at all,” junior Sage Ceasar said.
Senior Ayanna Parker said, “I don’t think they were trying to send a bad message. I think that they were joking and didn’t understand the seriousness of it.”
Blackface was used in theater to depict negative stereotypes of African-Americans.
The mother said her daughter is ashamed and learning a lesson the hard way.
“Our family is very sorry for anyone who felt hurt by this image,” she said. “My daughter is very regretful.”
The photo comes on the heels of an anti-Semitic post by a middle school student in the same district, which prompted a rabbi to pen a letter of inclusion to the community.
Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron won’t say if the girls, who were freshmen at the time, will face suspension.
“Actions have consequences and this has been an example of that,” Aaron said.
The one thing the principal wants to keep telling students is that whatever they post online lives on forever.
She continued, “We have a lot of work to do with students about what’s appropriate and how we can use social media and images and ideas can be harmful,” Aaron said.
Instagram is looking into how the image was reposted.