From the McDonald’s Cardi B and Offset meals in February to the Pride logo temporarily replacing company logos in June, to even the corny commercials only displaying Mexican culture instead of all Hispanic culture, these marketing strategies are used to monetize off the public. Trinidad Aguirre once said that "it's honestly common in my experience. Major brands try to do these things without really attempting to understand our diverse culture, right, and they often miss the mark time and time again." And, he’s right, I think it’s great to have these months where music, food, clothes, history, and culture can be highlighted, celebrated, and revered but instead, major corporations and companies leverage capitalism as a ploy of celebration.
I know I’m not the only one who sees the memes of how companies and corporations strip off their mask after months that celebrate marginalized communities and reset back into “the white norm”. There’s a reason for that and I want to probe into the whys and hows towards this “fake wokeness” and plagiarized ploy from companies and corporations that do more harm in these celebratory months. So, buckle up! Because you're about to dive into a world of history, information, current events, criticisms, and more!
Black History Month, National Women’s History Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, National Deaf History Month, Arab American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage, Older Americans Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, National Italian American Heritage Month, and National Native American Heritage Month, and more are celebrations, commemorations, and appreciation months for marginalized and disenfranchised communities in America. As you look down this list you might question why there are months for the Italians and Irish? Why all the other months are titled heritage but, the Black History Month is solely about history…does it imply Black Americans don’t have heritage in this country?
These companies and corporations love to advertise their pioneer-ship through sponsorships, commercials, or even advertisements that showcase their practices of cultural inclusivity, awareness, and diversity. Yet, rest assured, these celebratory months tend to do more harm by showcasing the underbelly of monetary gain, increased violence towards the groups being celebrated, an uptick in domestic terrorism, and complete chaos while simultaneously promoting the creed “Land of the Free”, acceptance, harmony, individuality, and kumbaya. One must remember that freedom was exclusively for the white male majority, a majority that didn’t even consider its own women free. So, the questions remain, why are there months dedicated to the “celebration” of the disenfranchised minorities, why do white Americans want their own month when there is the 4th of July and every other day of the year, and why do big companies and corporations advertise and monetize off of these celebrations just until that calendar date hits the 28th, 30th, or 31st rather than promote and celebrate 365 days per year?
In order to understand the anniversary of these months, you must first understand the creation. I now will take you through the history and chaos:
Black History Month (African American History Month), celebrated in February, was created by Dr. Carter G. Woodson that “affords us the opportunity to honor the monumental achievements of living pioneers and departed path-breakers from advocates and educators to innovators and discoverers'' stated by Dr. Jeremy Levitt. The month of February was selected because of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas’s birthday along with their impacts on the lives of Black Americans. During this Black History Month (which happens to be the shortest month of month…IFYKYK) we have the Grammy’s, NAACP Awards, Keke Palmer’s son being born, Kylie Jenner’s daughter’s birthday, college girls doing Blackface mocking Black History Month, two right-wing extremist try to start a race war by destroying power grid substations in Baltimore, Florida Governor DeSantis trying to ban AP African American History for highschool students, and a student from AU write on a whiteboard “Black People Suck”. So as you can see, within one month, the chaos and underbelly of America prevails!
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrated in May, was created by Jennie Jew, president of the Chinese American Women who recognized the lack of Asian representation in government. This was observed n 1979 and signed in May 1992 by President George H. W. Bush. The month of May was selected due to the first Japanese immigration in 1873 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.
Pride Month, celebrated in June, was proclaimed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, as there was no month that honors the equality and freedom of gender expression. Historically during Pride Month, there was the Pulse shooting, an uptick in right-wing extremist terrorism, increased homophobia, the famous celebrations in New York, Stonewall memorial, peaceful protests, legalization of same-sex marriage, and Ru Paul’s Drag Shows.
Native American Heritage Month, celebrated in November, was designated by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 to recognize hundreds of Native Americans. The holiday serves as a reminder of the positive effect Native people's have had on the cultural development and growth of the U.S., as well as the struggles and challenges they have faced. Historically, celebrated pow wows, uplifting their ancestors, mourning the erasure of Native American culture, and ecological protests, and proposals to ban drilling around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Those are only four out of the 12 national celebrations.
If you’re still reading this article, I’m about to sidetrack but you’ll understand why. There’s a reason why I’m bringing up the following: as for Italian-Irish American Heritage Months (March and October), these were created due to the discrimination and prejudice that both groups faced when first immigrating into the States. The Italians (southern Sicilians Italians) underwent a new form of racism when America began separating the European immigrants by “designating some “whiter” — and more worthy of citizenship — than others, while some were ranked as too close to Blackness to be socially redeemable” stated by Brent Staples. Having a darker hue, stereotyped as being part of mobs, uncivilized, being used for cheap labor, and even some categorized as Black; the Italians experienced an awakening of American white hatred. It wasn’t until Italians began monopolizing “the federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus — celebrated in October but now recoined Indigenous People’s Day— was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century after the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans”.
The Irish started immigrating to the States around 1840 during the potato famine and enforced Protestantism that terrorized their country. In fact, the man who owned my mother’s family arrived to Wharton, Housto, Texas in 1840 and fathered my grandfather in 1844. The Irish and Black Americans worked the same jobs, inter-married, lived in the same communities, as the Irish were the “Negros turned inside out” stated by Art McDonald. It wasn’t until the Irish came to this country and experienced oppression, did many realize it was better to embrace whiteness, thus becoming part of the system which dominated and oppressed Blacks.
I believe that the current state of white American is a feeling of white vulnerability, fragility, and insecurity which is an insatiable need for white Americans to be comfortable and included. The fact that there is uncomfortability during months of celebrating and uplifting marginalized communities displays the tunnel vision and tone deafness of white Americans. It can be assumed that white people and non-Black people are in “control” of big companies and corporations which means that despite the diversity and teams recruited to celebrate these months, they just never hit. When a company or corporation ends celebration, changes the logo, puts ethnic items back in the store room on the 28th, 30th, and 31st, it shows the performativity and ignorance of their marketing schemes.
It’s clear that the history of each of these months have immense depth and significance that impacts the communities that celebrate them. These months aren’t ones that need to be monetized or playcaded, these are months that are used for appreciation, representation, mourning, and celebration. The big companies that change their logos, advertise their awareness, and campaigns with members of that community are only monopolizing from the backs of what the month represents. There are websites like Forbes magazine that released an article titled “4 Ways Your Company Can Celebrate Black History Month…” but, from my perspective, when the thoughts and understanding of the months are not genuine, what’s the point of advertising at all? I remember in June of 2019, when companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. changed their logos to the rainbow, or post more recognition for women, or sell items like chopsticks, or journals with Black empowerment, or makeup companies creating lines on how diverse they are with creators from those marginalized communities, and even fashion designers launching partnerships/ new “influenced'' clothes.
In these moments of monetary gain, capitalism, and false celebration lies a fine line between appreciation and appropriation or celebration and commodification. It feels like these big companies and corporations forget about the history of the months, its establishment, the discrimination, the oppression, the pain, and the inequality that is inflicted onto these communities. Even if the intent of the companies and corporations is out of good action meant to acknowledge and celebrate most of the delivery is not impactful. Even furthermore, the CEO’s and board members who have months like the Italian and Irish Heritage Months seem to become tone deaf to other marginalized communities celebrations.
My advice to the companies who want to partake in the anniversaries of these months need first to understand that these months came to fruition because of the misrepresentation and painful history that was inflicted onto marginalized communities. There should be articles, websites, posts, stories that address the history, highlight its leaders, provide outlets for the people within those communities to become spokespersons, and provide aid.. Secondly, I understand that we live in a capitalist society and have a history of making profit at the expense of the minority but, in these months the advertisements should address the hardships, representation, diversity, and how the companies and corporations are going to help solve those communal issues. Instead of producing lines, items, clothes, and more, promote and fund the Black-owned, LGBTQIA+ owned, Asian-owned, and more businesses.
Lastly, remember as our marginalized communities grow bigger, our representation is crucial.