This archived article was written by: Rodrigo Leon
February has historically been called Black History Month. Many people criticized this for many reasons. Though the biggest criticism of Black History Month, from black scholars, is that Black History Month has been whitewashed (the “black” in Black History Month has been retold from the perspective of the white).
This criticism has been stated in the recent weeks because of reactions to Beyoncé’s and Kendrick Lamar’s performances as, “overtly divisive” or being compared to the KKK. These performances of black history have been the most honest portrayal of black history in Black History Month.
Beyoncé’s performance was representative of the Black Panthers, who have been painted by American history classes, as a violent organization; when in reality the Black Panthers provided services to poor Black families and became violent only when assaulted by police while peacefully protesting.
Kendrick Lamar’s performance instead throws an homage to the millions of black people in prison. His performance shows that historically the black body has never truly been out of chains in America. From the slave, to Jim Crow, to modern day where over half of the prison population is black, when blacks are less than 30 percent of the population. Though “Black” History Month will teach about the successes of Martin Luther King Jr., they refuse to tell you he was imprisoned several times.
These two performances are a modern examples of the whitewashing of Black History Month. Let’s look at Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party. He had a doctorate in social philosophy, but most people don’t know because we are taught that the Black Panthers were a violent-terrorist group. MLK wanted reform, but would cringe at the “progress” that has been made. Let’s not forget to mention he was a Marxist, an inherent enemy of capitalist America.
The academic institutions who are supposed to teach and encourage the study of Black History Month also don’t teach about the violence that has been carried out against blacks in the United States: the KKK, which currently has approximately 5,000 members (previously about 100,000), has killed many blacks and continues to carry out race violence. Though funny enough, no one talks about it.
Black History Month has never taught “black” history but a black history written by whites. When black history is presented, society gets defensive and tries to hide behind the black history they wrote. They claim these performances are divisive, but that’s only because if people see the discrepancy in privilege, people would demand more.