Thursday, August 11 2022

A pair of Arizona diversity, equity and inclusion “experts” have come under fire for falsely accusing an African-American DJ of wearing blackface at an event.

Jill Lassen and Stuart Rhoden, who advocate for diversity at the Scottsdale Unified School District in various capacities, wrote scathing letters of complaint after DJ Kim Koko Hunter appeared at a PTA event, mistaking him for a white man.

Stuart and Rhoden have since apologized, with some noting the irony of “diversity and inclusion” activists rushing to such false conclusions.

But Rhoden also sought to double down on her original claim and speculated that Hunter may have used cosmetics to darken her skin.

“When you’re so determined to call everyone racist, only to find yourself racist,” one person tweeted.

Hunter, the Scottsdale School District and the Hopi PTA did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com requests for comment.

The Hopi Elementary PTA in Phoenix hired Hunter to entertain the crowd at its biggest fundraiser of the year on April 9.

It was a success and attracted more than $300,000 for “essential programs and services” not paid for by the Scottsdale Unified School District.

But Lassen and Rhoden decided to take offense at Hunter’s complexion, after mistaking him for a white man in a racist outfit according to the Arizona Daily Independent.

The couple complained about the apparently racist incident to the school principal and the head of the PTA, who quickly clarified that Hunter was actually a black man.

DJ Kim Koko Hunter (second from right) was hired to perform at a fundraiser for Hopi Elementary’s PTA in Phoenix on April 9

The DJ, who has 1,500 followers on Instagram, posted a video from the 1970s-themed event showing him skating in a shiny gold shirt and sunglasses.

The DJ, who has 1,500 followers on Instagram, posted a video from the 1970s-themed event showing him skating in a shiny gold shirt and sunglasses.

Stuart Rhoden, professor at Arizona State University

Jill Lassen, Scottsdale Parent Council Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Co-Chair

Stuart Rhoden and Jill Lassen, who advocate for diversity in the Scottsdale School District, complained about Hunter’s appearance in front of the school’s principal and the principal of the PTA.

Kim Koko Hunter performed at the Hopi Elementary PTA’s “Hopi Night Fever” fundraiser on April 9. Event raised more than $300,000, Scottsdale Schools activist says Amanda Wray.

The DJ has 1,500 followers on Instagram, where he posted videos of himself in 1970s disco-inspired attire at the event, complete with roller skates and a shiny gold shirt.

The irony of diversity advocates' reckless judgment has been mocked on social media

The irony of diversity advocates’ reckless judgment has been mocked on social media

After the fundraiser, Stuart Rhoden reportedly emailed the manager complaining about Hunter.

Rhoden is an instructor at Arizona State University and also serves on the Scottsdale School District Equity and Inclusion Committee.

He questioned the PTA’s acceptance of blackface, in which a person, usually white, paints their skin to represent a black person. The practice has its roots in early 19th century American theater and is now widely seen as racist.

In a Facebook post last week, he apologized to “dude” for the mistake, only to double down and suggest Hunter wore makeup to make himself look darker.

“Let’s be clear, a black man, seemingly black-faced, is an entirely different discussion than a white person. However, I did not state that the person was white.

‘It was assumed that was my intention, and maybe it was, but nonetheless, looking on his FB page (pictures below), it appears at the very least that he is in a darker makeup if not ‘Black Face’ or I’m completely wrong and it’s patio lighting,” Rhoden said.

‘So here’s what I mean. I apologize to the dude for the implication, but the sentiment is still relevant, anyone’s black face these days is problematic. I also apologize to people who reposted and made other statements based on my assumption.

In a Facebook apology, Rhoden suggested Hunter wore makeup to make himself look darker

In a Facebook apology, Rhoden suggested Hunter wore makeup to make himself look darker

Hunter performed at the Hopi Elementary PTA's

Hunter performed at the Hopi Elementary PTA’s “Hopi Night Fever” fundraiser on April 9. The event raised more than $300,000, according to a public school activist.

Rhoden wasn’t the only one who took offense to Hunter’s appearance.

Jill Lassen, co-chair of the Scottsdale Parent Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, also sent an email complaining about the incident, according to the Arizona Daily Independent.

PTA manager Megan Livengood replied, “I am deeply offended by this email, even with the apology included.

“The Scottsdale Parent Council is an organization that claims to encourage diversity and inclusion; accusing the Hopi PTA and myself of hiring a DJ who participated in racist behavior is absolutely contrary to your mission.

Livengood added, “The DJ hired by Hopi PTA was actually a black man.”

Lassen apologized profusely in a follow-up email.

“You are right, we should have reached out and inquired before making such accusations. I cannot understand the pain, anger and frustration you felt after you and others devoted countless hours to your event,” wrote Lassen, who describes herself as an “ardent community volunteer, activist and ally of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Again, I truly apologize. I hope you find the strength in your heart to forgive me and not harbor resentment towards SPC.

The accusations were ridiculed on social media, with one person tweeting: ‘No more DEI. It works.’

The fundraiser was to raise money for “essential programs and services” at Hopi Elementary (above) that are not paid for by the Scottsdale Unified School District

The fundraiser was to raise money for “essential programs and services” at Hopi Elementary (above) that are not paid for by the Scottsdale Unified School District

Amanda Wray, the school’s activist, says the couple’s apologies aren’t enough.

“When these community activists were told their accusations were false, they didn’t apologize, they doubled down,” she told the Independent.

“The CPS is so determined to find racism that it will go so far as to charge a member of one of the communities it claims to defend with misconduct.”

Wray is currently involved in a lawsuit brought by the father of a Scottsdale school board member.

The father, Mark Greenburg, claims she invaded his privacy and defamed him by sharing the contents of a Google Drive he created without his consent, according to the Arizona Republic.

Wray leads the group SUSD-CAN, which “is dedicated to spreading anti-mask policies, anti-vaccine policies, anti-LGBTQ policies, and anti-critical race theory policies within the Scottsdale Unified School District. ,” according to the Greenburg filing.

In her remarks against Rhoden and Lassen’s blackface accusations, Wray made sure to include some jabs at the Scottsdale Parent Council, of which Lassen is a part.

“The SPC bills every PTO/PTA/APT in the Scottsdale Unified School District for dues each year and then uses those funds to attack community members,” Wray said.

“This same organization and its leaders, President Emmie Cardella, accused me of violating the code of ethics last year for questioning the district’s misuse of taxpayers’ money and violating AZ’s open meeting laws, while knowingly violating their own bylaws.”

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