By: Kayla Hunt, Columnist
February has been designated as Black History Month since 1976, as a means to pay homage to African Americans who overcame adversity and contributed to the culture we resonate with today.
This year, Black History Month has started off distastefully and ignorantly, rather than with a celebration of African American culture.
Blackface is a theatrical tactic that was used in the 19th century by predominantly white performers in minstrel shows. These performers would paint their faces black and exaggerate their features, such as having big, red lips in order to portray African slaves at the time. In these shows they would depict Africans as lazy and uneducated, which are stereotypes that still exist. This tactic was demeaning and humiliating then, and it still is now.
The designer brand, Gucci, has recently faced backlash after releasing one of its products, the wool balaclava jumper, that has been deemed to resemble blackface. Gucci has since issued an apology and has removed the item from its fall collection. The item can no longer be found online or in-stores.
Similarly, Adidas is also under the fire for releasing a Black History Month shoe that has an all-white, cotton design. Many consumers are upset because the shoe does not properly give recognition to the holiday. Adidas has pulled the shoe from its Harlem Renaissance-inspired collection.
The revelations of these brands seem overwhelming as the blackface scandal that revolves around two state Democrat leaders is still unfolding.
A recent yearbook photo from the 1980s has recently surfaced that appears to show Virginia Governor Ralph Northam dressed up in blackface standing next to a peer that is disguised as a Klu Klux Klan member.
Northam previously admitted to the allegation and issued an apology, but he is now denying the claims even though he admitted to having done blackface in 1984 when he was dressing up as Michael Jackson for a dance contest.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has also admitted to dressing up in blackface in 1980 to a college party trying to impersonate Kurtis Blow.
As these circulations of blackface come to light, people are not staying quiet. People are threatening and urging others to boycott the brands Gucci and Adidas. Many members of the public are also insisting that Northam and Herring resign from their positions.
Although the tone setting Black History Month hasn’t been celebratory thus far, it still shows the significance of this annual observance. The recognition that we show to those for overcoming adversity are still issues that we face today.