At its best, Black History Month is a time to draw attention – and pay respect – to people who made significant achievements despite a history, often in spite of discrimination, segregation and even abuse. It is a 28-day period for young people to learn about sacrifices and achievements made by African-Americans. It is also a time for others to celebrate those accomplishments.
Somehow, that was not the view of Black History Month of Nicki Minaj, the rapper who released a new album with highly controversial cover art. The well-known photo offers an image of Malcolm X, looking out of a window and holding a rifle, along with the use of the N-word.
The image caused quite a stir in the world of social media and, to her credit, Minaj apologized for the controversial depiction.
“I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued,” she said on Facebook. The N-word, she said, “causes so much debate in our community” while so-called N-word behavior gets praised and worshiped.” She added: “Let's not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.”
Even in the apology, there seems to be no coming to grips with the fact that the history and story of Malcolm X have been dishonored. Moreover, the very discussion of the N-word in connection with the civil rights icon is a misguided and vulgar undertaking to say the least.
The major issue here is the judgment on the part of the rapper. What would lead her in the first place to provide such an unflattering and historically foolish image of the revered civil right leader? What would cause her to believe that a N-word reference to Malcolm X is an appropriate one? And to add insult to injury, all of this occurred during Black History Month.
Perhaps this is an indication of how far we need to go in the basic mission of Black History Month. There is an even greater need for people of all ages to develop a better appreciation for those who have sacrificed for their principles of equality. This serves as an example of how it’s not just enough to know history, but to treat it with the respect and reverence it often deserves.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
(Photos from left: Cash Money Records, John Parra/Getty Images)