Kendrick Confirms It: February 2016 Is The Blackest Black History Month Ever
February is the month designated to be Black History Month. It is also the shortest month of the calendar year. This happens to be a coincidence — today’s Black History Month is the evolution of Carter G. Woodson’s “Negro History Week,” created in 1926 and intended to be recognized the second week of February — but I still wouldn’t begrudge or dismiss anyone who does believe this is a slight. And that this slight is intentional. The Black American’s experience in America could be categorized as a cauldron of “less-thans”; a collection of zero-calorie meals congealed and cooked in a way to attempt to convince us they’re complete. It stretches from our initial status as chattel, extends past our stint as three fifths of a human, and bleeds into today, where just the suggestion that lives possessed by Black people also matter is considered revolutionary, disruptive, threatening, and even insulting. So I will forgive those who believe, even in the face of contradicting evidence, that Black History Month’s relative brevity is another snub.
Yet, an unintended consequence of this status has been the cultivation of a culture of celebration. And not a celebration of being considered less than. But a celebration of achievement, of virtue, of éclat, of survival in spite of those conditions and this consideration. Black people tend to shout because, well, we’ve earned it.
And this, how these successes and the celebrations of these successes have been earned came to mind last night while watching Kendrick Lamar’s watershed Grammy moment. It was brilliant. It was ethereal. It was heroic. It was bold. And it was Black as fuck. But this Blackness wasn’t just sublime. It was so celebratory, so ebullient, so clear, that it was antagonistic. Callous in its unapologeticness. Sociopathic in its regard to the predominately White audience and predominately White viewership. And no, celebratory Blackness isn’t inherently antagonistic or “anti” anything other than anti-anti-Black. But context matters. American history matters. America matters. And the celebration of something we’ve been conditioned and expected not to celebrate is an unambiguous affront to those whose status is connected to and determined by our lack of it.
Which means that this Black History Month must especially suck for them. For them, this Black History Month must be like eating the soggiest and shittiest potato salad ever. (Potato salad soup, basically.) For every meal. For an entire week. This Black History Month is the worst. month. ever.
To wit, February of 2016 is just barely halfway over. But the following has already happened:
2. Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s most prominent conservative, died. Which means President Obama will likely get to choose the next justice. Which prompted a tsunami of preemptive White tears — seriously, Mitch McConnell might just be a puddle with glasses at this point — all wishing, hoping, imploring that this Black man just goes away and leaves White people alone. Which made President Obama basically say “Nah.” (That Loretta Lynch happens to be the most likely candidate is the icing on the White Tear funnel cake.)
3. Kanye went Peak Kanye. And his milkshake has been bringing White Tears to the yard since 2005.
It’s apropos that the last Black person to perform on the Grammy stage last night was Brittany Howard, the lead of Alabama Shakes. During their performance of “Don’t Wanna Fight,” Howard donned a white cape over a white dress; her voice penetrating and powerful as her guitar rang and her alabaster garments swayed. The image evoked was unmistakable: On that night, the 15th day of the best and Blackest Black History Month ever, Jesus was a 27-year-old Black woman from Alabama.