The Commercialization of Black History Month
I’ve been meaning to write this post since I watched a commercial for a K-Mart Martin Luther King, Jr. day sale. I’m all about a deal, and I can’t be sure but maybe Dr. King was also, but seriously? It took me back to a discussion I’ve had with several people regarding the commercialization of revolutionary heroes, such as Che Guevara who has been relegated to a t-shirt and how his message is lost by the very practice (buying and wearing items adorned with his image) that keeps his image alive.
I vividly remember the maelstrom Morgan Freeman caused when he said that the idea of Black History Month is ridiculous. He further explained his contention by pointing to the fact that relegating Black history to one month is ridiculous and perpetuates racism more than it works to fight against it. While I understand Morgan Freeman’s concern, I believe that the commercialization of Black History Month is doing more damage to Black History than anything.
The current state of Black History Month, as it appears in major media outlets, should be a source of concern. We have reduced what should be a month of reflection, remembrance, evaluation and celebration to a marketing ploy and a celebration of individuals (mostly entertainers) and the marketability of their talents.
If the purpose of Black History Month is to examine Black history as it relates to American history then the commercialization of the major players is particularly troubling. It allows us to analyze them in a political vacuum and glamorize them in a way that trivializes their importance to Black history.
Further, the commercialization of Black History Month as a whole downplays its importance and dilutes its message. Contrary to what corporate America would have you believe, you do not celebrate Black History Month by buying relaxers, drinking Coca Cola or buying shit.
What do you think? Is Black History Month too commercial?