During the television airing of the 2020 Grammy Awards Ceremony, Google released its new Black History Month advertisement. The 1-minute commercial titled, “The Most Searched: A Celebration of Black History Makers” demonstrates the amazing feats Black people have accomplished throughout history based on how many people have looked them up on the search engine. The Civil Rights Movement holds the spot of the “most searched movement,” Maya Angelou is the “most searched female poet,” and so on.
I personally enjoyed the video. It reinforces the fact that Black people have been vital to American culture and history since the creation of our country. It is a small but powerful way of getting the recognition we, as a community, deserve. However, it had me and other Black folks wondering about the integrity of companies who use Black History Month as a marketing tool.
This isn’t a new suspicion. People are often wary of the motivations of companies who use Black History Month and Pride Month to appeal to those communities and sell them products. This is because once the month is over, the support is wiped away along with the exclusive merchandise that comes along with it.
While it is nice that big companies like Google celebrate Black culture, they are not successful in supporting their Black employees. In 2018, Black people made up a disappointing 4.8% of Google’s workforce, while the population of Black people in the United States is 13%. In addition, multiple former Google employees have released memos expressing the hardships they faced while working there. One former employee has even said they, “never stopped feeling the burden of being Black at Google.”
This situation opens up a major conversation about companies, institutions and people adoring Black culture while neglecting and marginalizing Black people. Black History Month is important, no one is denying that. Year after year, people take the time during Black History Month to look further than the prominent figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., uplifting Black people from our past that have done great things to make a better future. It’s a time of reflection and celebration.
Further, there are calls for Google to include “the good and the bad” experiences of being Black in America. While many Black people excel in their respected fields, this does not mean that the racism, discrimination and violence our group faces has magically disappeared. While we celebrate the greats, we need to acknowledge that there are systemic disadvantages Black people face that stop them from being able to become the next great judge or heart surgeon.
But Black people deserve more. We deserve to be hired at companies that are making strides to be anti-racist and have equitable hiring practices that eliminate racial biases in the employment process. We deserve to be present and represented in history books but also lecture in classrooms, in front of and behind the camera, serve on city councils, and act as CEO at our dream jobs. We are more than the entertainment, scientific advancements and political quotes we give to the world.
So this Black History Month, if you plan on creating an advertisement, program or event celebrating Black culture, make sure you move beyond that and uplift Black people too.