Commentary: Has Black History Month Become a Joke?

Internet memes popular on social media distort the true meaning of the month. 

Posted: 02/11/2013 10:45 AM EST

File these posts under #smh.

Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. LOL at a message trivializing the March on Washington? Would Harriet Tubman co-sign that beauty entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker was the "1st woman in history to fix her edges?"

If you were to do a quick search on Instagram under #blackhistorymonth, these types of posts would outnumber those celebrating the contributions of King, Barack Obama and many more of America’s most influential Black leaders. They are part of a nasty genre of Internet memes popular on social media that not only reinforce hurtful Black stereotypes, but also rob Black History Month of its core values. As African-Americans, we are doing ourselves a disservice by sharing these messages on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the like.

Some of the worst offenders I found, including a Jim Crow-era snapshot of a young Black man standing under a “whites only” sign with the added caption #YOLO, serve up race-baiting in its most conventional form.  

It’s as if we have forgotten why we celebrate Black History Month in the first place. Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson established "Negro History Week” in 1926 as a means to highlight the contributions of African-Americans and the development of Black studies. In a time where Blacks were conspicuously left out of the history books, Woodson’s vision gave African-Americans a pathway to their roots. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford expanded Negro History Week to cover the entire month of February.

Our forefathers’ struggle for equality and justice will be diminished if we let ourselves play too fast and loose with our heritage. That said, the next time you re-tweet, ask yourself if it’s a message you truly want to send. Know your history.



The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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