Photos of children dressed in blackface while wearing shirts that had "Black Lives Matter" written on the back during the Jewish holiday of Purim has sparked anger in a New Jersey community.
Children typically dress up as historical characters to celebrate the day commemorating the survival of the Jewish community in ancient Persia. However, the costumes — complete with Afro wigs — worn by what appeared to be four children in Lakewood has left many looking for answers as to why this happened.
"Listen, that took some effort. For you to have in dashikis, Afro wigs and blackface, that took effort," Ocean County NAACP President Fred Rush said of the photos taken Friday.
A woman who lives in the town, which has a significant Jewish population, said she took the photos and posted them to Facebook. Rush drove over to the location where they were taken to see for himself, and talked to the parents to mention how the costumes made him feel.
"I just said this is offensive, and I would hope you would take the time to teach your kids because it's offensive not only to me but to a lot of people," he said. Rush added that the parents said they understood his objections, but it wasn't clear if they had the children change.
The incident caused enough of a disturbance to force a virtual school board meeting on the subject. Michael Inzelbuch is the general council for Lakewood, and said that being Jewish, he understood why the children were dressed up for the holiday. But he said that he didn't know the identities of the children involved or if they were from Lakewood, and made no excuses for having them dress that way.
"It's unacceptable and we cant have something, even if it's just one, or two, or three or four (kids) — we can't have something, it shouldn't happen at all," Inzelbuch said.
While no one has been trying to defend the costumes, all seeming to agree that they were offensive and should never be worn again — especially to celebrate a holiday — the question that remains is: How can it be ensured that it doesn't happen again?
Rush said it all comes down to education.
"Teach your kids, let them know what they do today could be offensive to other people. That's what I do with my kids," he said.