Black History Month: A time of celebration and reflection, not stereotypical representation
From Bath and Bodyworks releasing a BHM line adorned with Kente print and names like “Strong,” “Confident” and “Empowered” to TikTok hosting a BHM event where Black creators couldn't even get in, as a Black person, I am realizing BHM is extremely performative. The month is no longer a month where Black people can share and celebrate their culture and heritage. It's turned into a month where brands turn racial stereotypes and tropes into Black representation, where non-Black people are able to shout over Black voices and Black truth, to show their “solidarity." And It's honestly quite tiring.
I don't write this to bash non-Black people. I write this to flip the script. I write this to make us think. Think about the actions we’ve done so far this BHM. Have we confronted our own microaggressions towards Black people? Have we educated ourselves on Black culture? Have we ourselves taken the steps to erase the past history of mistreatment of Black bodies, in our ACTUAL lives? In other words, can I see your understanding of Black history outside of your Instagram?
If you said no to any of those questions, I’ve made my point. I won't say it's okay because it's not, but I want to help you use this BHM for what it should be. A time of understanding and personal reflection. Because it can be—and needs to be—so much better.
Here are 3 tips to help that process:
1. Super simple: listen to Black people.
You'll find that a lot of Black people have a lot to say during BHM. Use this time to listen. To learn. To gain perspective.
2. Educate yourselves through the internet. not by asking your Black friends.
While listening to Black people is important, there are some concepts that are quite insensitive to ask your Black counterparts about. Topics like microaggressions and misogynoir aren’t exactly light topics to educate your friends about during a month where you should be celebrating. I recommend starting with Jane Elliot’s “A Class Divided” on YouTube.
3. Research, research, research anything you find questionable.
With watching Jane Elliot, also start researching things you find confusing that she doesn't touch on. Confused about why it's disrespectful to use AAVE as a comedic flare? Search it up. Confused about what AAVE is? Search it up. Use the internet to your advantage.
I thought maybe after the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, people would further educate themselves on Black people and the false narratives that surround us. People would stop using words like strong, confident and empowered to describe Black women. People would stop talking over Black creators. But it's clear people didn't. And it's disappointing. I write this to hopefully set the tone for the other half of this month. Together, we can make BHM be what it intended to be. A time for celebration and reflection of the mistreatment of Black Bodies.