Nichole Burkett Sacramento teacher slant eyes video condemned after Anti Asian Zoom class reinforces disparaging negative stereotypes.
Nichole Burkett, a Spanish teacher and adviser for the class of 2022 at Sacramento’s Grant Union High School, is shown on video intentionally narrowing her eyes during an online class last week, according to local reports.
‘If your eyes go up, you’re Chinese,’ Burkett said, as she stretched her own eyes. ‘If they go down, they’re Japanese. If they’re just straight, you don’t know.’
‘I should leave your class right now!’ someone can be heard saying after Burkett finished.
The gesture is deeply rooted in previous ‘historical’ negative racial stereotype depictions of Asian people in the same vein that blackface disparages African Americans. It remained unclear what elicited the teacher making the dramatic gestures in front of students.
i can’t believe there are now people DEFENDING this #sacramento school teacher saying the video is taken out of context?!! there’s no context where the racist slant-eye gesture is acceptable, period. #AntiAsianRacism pic.twitter.com/3zVqbVvD78
— 𝙖𝙡𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙞𝙪 🧧🧢 #StandForAsians (@siushi) March 1, 2021
‘I have been advised to not make any statements…’
In a statement issued to the Sacramento Bee, Twin Rivers United School District spokesperson Zenobia Gerald called the video ‘shocking’ and ‘disappointing,’ adding that the district has since opened a probe.
‘The video … does not represent the values held by Twin Rivers and the community,’ Gerald added. ‘An investigation was immediately launched when we were notified about the video. Please know that Twin Rivers is committed to providing all students with a safe and civil learning environment in which all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect. We do not tolerate any form of racism from any member of our school community.’
School principal Darris Hinson similarly decried the incident.
Burkett declined to comment to the paper, but a response from an email address associated with her said: ‘I have been advised to not make any statements until my union representative gets back to me.’
Burkett’s staff biography on the school website indicates that she is the club adviser for Lao Xang Noy, and KPOP.
‘I love teaching and supporting all students at Grant,’ she wrote.
The ‘slant-eyes’ stereotype is widely considered a racist and derogatory slur used to depict East Asians. The racist stereotype has roots in late 19th-century Western propaganda, when Asian immigrants were often depicted in drawings with yellow skin, buck teeth and slit eyes.
Perpetuating negative stereotypes in the face of increased instances of hate crime
In a statement, Sacramento City Council Member Mai Vang condemned the teacher’s actions, saying the usage of such stereotypes can contribute to an unsafe learning environment.
‘Perpetuating racist stereotypes of Asian Americans is harmful under any circumstance, but they are particularly egregious at a time when anti-Asian racism and violence is at an all-time high,’ Vang said in the statement according to Sacbee. ‘Students should feel safe in their learning environments and the actions of this teacher violates that safety and creates a climate that excuses hateful acts. The leaders of the Twin Rivers USD must take immediate action to investigate the situation.’
The incident comes amid a recent wave of assaults on Asian victims in California and other parts of the country.