Wednesday marked February 1, and as such, also marked the beginning of the venerated Black History Month. A month dedicated to honoring and commemorating blackness and the strides in equality both the black population and America made over the decades, Black History Month is a time for paying respects to those who fought for equal rights for blacks and a time to celebrate being black amid a cultural system setup against that ethnic minority.
Many elected officials, celebrities, and common folk take these 28 days — 29 if the year lands on a leap year — to discuss and praise blackness, mostly by honoring fellow blacks in either the past or present, and recognizing that these individuals have made everything blacks are able to do today possible. Donald Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, took to Twitter this day to celebrate Black History Month in the most awkward way possible — by honoring a white man.
Yes, Mike Pence began his celebration of Black History Month by remembering President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. While commendable — Mr. Lincoln did abolish slavery back in the 1860s by submitting the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery and involuntary servitude in 1864, though there is a loophole that allowed a form of slavery to persist — Pence forgot the cardinal, unspoken rule of Black History Month: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gets first dibs of being honored, not a white male.
Being a black man, I have a problem with this. We incessantly speak of Trump’s administration as being white nationalists. We call President Trump a demagogue. We perennially slander Trump’s Cabinet as people with zero experience, inept and unfit for the job they’re sworn into office for. All of this is true, but I was hoping that Black History Month would be a month where we could, maybe just for a little while, forget about the atrocious Trump Tower (no longer the Oval Office) for a bit and just celebrate blackness. Clearly, that’s not possible, as on day one of Black History Month, Pence couldn’t let any minority group get the better of white people.
While VP Mike Pence was getting accosted on Twitter for his insensitivity, President Donald Trump had a Black History Month meeting in Trump Tower (again, no longer the Oval Office), where he gave a speech to honor “Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together.” Trump starts by looking at former neurosurgeon and the 17th secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the United States, Ben Carson, as if that’s his only black friend. Immediately following this awkward appraisal, Trump mentions Dr. King — as you do during Black History Month — but quickly turns that praise into denigration by calling out the media “when somebody said I took the statue out of my office.”
— Vice President Pence (@VP) February 2, 2017
@VP George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday…
— SENATOR HORSE PISS (@TriviumPaolo) February 2, 2017
See, here’s my issue with the start of this Black History Month during this political turmoil. It’s clear that Trump’s administration favors whites over every other ethnicity, there’s no denying that. Trump did reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I think the black population needs to give him props for at least mentioning one black man. Even if it’s the most trite mention ever, he still did it, but we can’t say the same about Pence. However, to swiftly divulge your “little breakfast” to libel and calling the media “fake news” is not at all what Black History Month is about. It has nothing to do with Black History Month at all, but of course, Trump has to make sure the spotlight is on him at all times. Good job, Team Trump, you’ve made it exponentially clear that you don’t give a damn about anyone else but yourself and white people.
Like Biggie rapped, “If you don’t know, now you know.” (That’s what you need to do: listen to some B.I.G. all this month. Start here with “Juicy.”)
At least Beyonce are Jay-Z are expecting twins, so there’s that. Maybe Black History Month sucks politically, but it doesn’t suck for everyone else, so Happy Black History Month.
You can watch the full video of Trump’s speech above and read the entire transcript here.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]