Black History Month this year was a bit underwhelming.
Despite how much attention the nationwide discussion on race has been getting recently, it was just a month of various brands changing their logos and having their social media accounts use a related hashtag.
To be fair, this isn't new. There are plenty of lists each year detailing how numerous companies are commemorating the month. Popular methods include looking at their company history and celebrating Black employees throughout the years or curating books and music from Black artists.
In these examples, however, the important thing to remember is they're still trying to sell something.
For instance, Amazon is celebrating the month by promoting Black-owned businesses on their storefronts and starting initiatives to create a more diverse workforce. Of course, these are good efforts, but they both support a financial bottom line. Amazon makes more money while appearing to be more progressive.
Other megacorporations like Facebook and Google also follow similar patterns, offering nice displays of celebration and offering internal workshops and seminars, while still focusing on the bottom dollar. Most corporations are doing small gestures like hiring more Black workers and assuming their job is done.
Of course, what this ignores is the much more impactful actions of these companies, such as allegations of Amazon paying its Black employees less, or Facebook fostering a growing white supremacist community. Many other seemingly innocuous businesses such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a long history of anti-Blackness.
It's not a mere internal problem either. These businesses directly affect the larger American culture by lobbying certain lawmakers. As recently as 2021, major companies like Verizon, Amazon, Google, Facebook and more donated to lawmakers trying to block voters’ rights.
Year after year, these companies make a conscious effort to display support of Black History Month with popular tweets and posts, using slogans of movements like #blacklivesmatter, but behind the scenes, they make moves directly harming Black people.
While we can acknowledge the positives of such large platforms giving attention to Black people and celebrating their history, it's just as important — if not more important — to showcase their hypocrisy.
When a movement and historic initiative such as Black History Month, a revolutionary challenge to a white-dominated understanding of American history, gets co-opted by the very same companies and businesses that enact racist behaviors, it becomes a joke.
Though Black History Month is over for 2022, we should make a better effort next year. Then February of 2023 won't be such a mockery.