Yarmouth 5th graders who just finished a unit on American history have been accused by a member of the school’s “equity task force” of engaging in “cultural appropriation” because they dressed up like historical figures from America’s past.
In an email sent Saturday to a dozen Yarmouth school officials, Sarah C.B. Norsworthy, a teacher in the Portland public schools, flagged a teacher-run blog as problematic due to pictures of students dressed up like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Harriet Tubman, and other legendary Americans.
“There are significant issues with appropriation and presentation – aligned with concerns re: our past practice of colonial craft day,” Norsworthy said.
“This was just brought to my attention by a concerned community member. I wanted to share it immediately with you,” she said.
“We MUST prioritize racial equity literacy professional learning,” she said.
The images were on a blog operated by “Mrs. Rollins” and “Mr. Smith,” two middle school teachers with more than 50 years of experience teaching.
“I’ll share more later – but suggest immediate action to remove these images, and protect the children whose images may be shared as examples of the work we need to improve on, and these educators,” Norsworthy said.
As part of the so-called “Great American” project, each student conducted research on a famous American from history, prepared a presentation about the individual, and designed an appropriate costume.
The images contained lots of powdered wigs and tricorne hats, but no blackface or racist caricatures.
After the Maine Wire inquired with Yarmouth school officials, the images were removed from the site. Then, the entire blog was deleted.
However, the Maine Wire reviewed the images prior to their removal and could not identify the content that offended Norsworthy. Some of the images were captured prior to their removal from the blog, and we’ve re-posted them below with the identities of the students blurred.
Norsworthy did not respond to an email asking for her help in determining why the images of children wearing costumes were offensive to her.
Norsworthy, in addition to teaching at a public school, is a “social-emotional learning” expert for the Maine Department of Education, according to her LinkedIn profile.
[UPDATE: It turns out Norsworthy has previously described kids dressing up as Harriet Tubman as “wonderful.” What’s changed? Read more here.]
In an email, Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said Norsworthy is not a school official in Yarmouth; however, he noted that she is running for a position on the School Committee.
“We were contacted by a few individuals who raised the concern that our students may be accused of cultural appropriation and that their images on the web could be harmful to them – now or in the future,” said Dollof.
“Because we don’t want to do anything that could potentially harm the well-being or reputation of our students we made the decision to remove the images while we sort through these concerns,” he said.
It’s unclear how an image of a child dressed up like Benjamin Tallmadge or Martha Washington might harm that child’s well-being.
However, cultural appropriation is a severe taboo within the progressive belief system.
Cultural appropriation typically involves the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element of one culture by members of another culture.
Liberals consider cultural appropriation to be politically incorrect. Allegations that someone has committed this liberal sin have caused controversy over the years.
In American politics, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were accused of cultural appropriation after thry wrapped themselves in kente cloths, traditional Ghanaian garments.
A source in Yarmouth familiar with Norsworthy’s complaint said it was yet another example of the “San Francisco-ization of Maine.”
“According to this world view, you can’t discuss Alexander Hamilton or any other founder,” they said.