The Black Super Bowl and the challenge of anti-Blackness
African American history was celebrated at this year’s Super Bowl. It was the first time that two Black quarterbacks faced off against each other. Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes played a good game, and the Chiefs won narrowly. The NFL is more than 100 years old. What took so long for it to reach this milestone?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell trumpeted the historic moment when he gave a press conference on “The State of the League.” When asked why it took so long, he replied, “there are probably a variety of reasons, probably none of them good.”
The NFL has a history of virulent racism.
According to Dave Zirin, an MSNBC columnist, “only eight Black men have ever quarterbacked in a Super Bowl.” And Colin Kaepernick, the courageous African American who took a knee to protest racism, has not yet found a place to return in the NFL.
The Black National Anthem, rousingly delivered by Sheryl Lee Ralph, was featured live at the Super Bowl for the first time. The anthem was written 123 years ago by James Weldon Johnson, an NAACP official, and teacher. It was a family affair, with his brother John Rosamond Johnson composing the music to accompany the song. The Super Bowl was, in some ways, a celebration of African American History. But Black folks can’t celebrate our history with others offering resistance and backlash.
The conservative Congresswoman Lauren Boebert twitted, “America only has ONE NATIONAL ANTHEM. Why is the NFL trying to divide us by playing multiple? Do football, not wokeness” Boebert and her sidekick Marjorie Taylor Green shamelessly and thoughtlessly carry the right-wing agenda, operating publicly without a shred of dignity.
At the State of the Union Address, Taylor Green, clad in all white, including a white fur collar, should have worn a matching hat (or hood) to make herself clear.
Boebart’s Twitter racism generated nearly 92,000 likes, more than 10,000 retweets, and much attention. Her backlash to Black excellence is similar to the conservative backlash to truth and Black history. According to Sarah Schwartz of Education Week, 44 states have “introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching “critical race theory” or limit how teachers can discuss racism. Eighteen states, as of this writing, have passed this pernicious legislation.
More than 1,600 books have been banned in 138 school districts in 33 states so far, as the momentum for ignorance is increasing. Among the banned books – Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Beloved; and Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaiden’s Tale. This book-banning, history-ignoring climate has some teachers frightened and intimidated. In some school districts, teachers who mention race can be fined or incarcerated. One teacher covered her books with plain book covers so students couldn’t see titles that might be perceived as “offensive .”
Many of the banned books have themes that deal with sex and sexuality. All the books apparently tell a truth that conservatives can’t handle.
Legislators are passing laws that are vague and silly. In South Carolina, a proposed law would prevent teachers from discussing anything that creates “discomfort, guilty, or anguish on the basis of political belief .” Florida has passed similar laws, and its governor has been a lead proponent in limiting teacher speech around race matters. Sarah Huckabee, the new governor of Arkansas, said she didn’t want students being taught to “hate their country.” But many African Americans, despite the oppression our people have experienced, love our country
It is no surprise that Florida’s governor has attacked an Advanced Placement Black Studies class and says it cannot be taught in Florida public schools. He has created a national controversy and prevaricated his interactions with the College Board, the organization that developed the class. His lies are not unusual. It reflects the lies he’d like teachers to tell when he waters down American history.
Black history is American history. The history of enslavement, lynching, and Jim Crow isn’t pleasant, but it happened. The theme of this Black History Month is resistance, which Black folks must do economically, politically, and educationally. Black educators and our allies have work to do. We must teach the truth and tell the truth, or the entire nation will suffer.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA.