Black history month should be about black people.
Photo of Red Auerbach and Bill Russell by Jack O'Connell. The Sporting News Archives/Wikimedia Commons.
Last year, as part of the Trump administration’s lackluster attempt to celebrate Black History Month, Vice President Mike Pence commemorated the occasion by praising President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was white.
\n— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 2, 2017\n
On Feb. 11, the Boston Police Department decided to honor Black History Month by paying tribute to legendary Celtics head coach, Red Auerbach. Red Auerbach was also white.
“In honor of #BlackHistory Month we pay tribute to @Celtics legend #RedAuerbach for being the 1st @NBA coach to draft a black player in 1950, field an all African-American starting five in 1964 and hire the league’s 1st African-American head coach (Bill Russell) in 1966.”
Boston mayor Marty Walsh issued a statement condemning the tweet and made a point of honoring prominent black Bostonians throughout history.
“We are celebrating the accomplishments and limitless contributions of the Black community to our city and the entire country, from Harriet Tubman to great leaders of today such as Chief Justice Ireland, artists like New Edition and Michael Bivins, powerful activists including Mel King and Superintendent Lisa Holmes, the first African-American woman to lead the Boston Police Academy training program.”
The Boston Police department deleted the tweet and replaced it with one recognizing Celtics legend Bill Russell.
#ICYMI: In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth we pay tribute to Bill Russell, one of the greatest @celtics of all time and the first African-American head coach in the history of the NBA when he was named @celtics coach on November 15, 1966. pic.twitter.com/gKX7zpcUQt— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) February 12, 2018\n
Black History Month was created to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans throughout history. The Boston PD’s tweet focuses on a white savior narrative and highlights black oppression. These narratives are harmful because they cast people of color as powerless side characters in history.
Going forward, when celebrating Black History Month, let’s stick to honoring black people.