We are once again in the midst of Black History Month, a month that cannot help but bring questions about “race relations” to the fore. Race is the song of America, constantly wrestling with its own musical tradition while trying to craft a new melody. Black History is not simply the story of race, or racism, it is of course more complex than that. It’s also the history of the invention of two forms of American popular music. It’s also the history of a rich literary tradition, of scientific invention, of athletic prowess, of the Great Migration transforming American cities and domestic politics. It’s the history of everyday people and the President of the United States. It’s the history of all of us, a history we can neither ignore nor avoid.
As Professor Daryl Michael Scott puts it to Mark Anthony Neal in this video, Black history is American history, and “February is the only time that Americans will get American history. I don’t predicate the continuation of Black History Month on the continued existence of racism, I really do believe that in the next century African Americans will take on the role of the keepers of the America past.”
Part of this history is the use of comedy to critique, complicate and mock the state of our union when it comes to race. It is this tradition that we will be celebrating this month here at Perception 2020 along with our regular content. Every weekday, we’ll feature a new video that uses comedy to address race and perception in America.
Today, we start with a stone classic, Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me,” still as fresh as when it was broadcast just over twenty years ago. In this sketch, Murphy goes undercover as a white man with predictably hilarious—and cutting—results. Check it out:
You can read a transcript of the sketch here.