An apparent press release promoting a purported Black History Month event featuring a celebrity who has been labeled anti-Black set off a social media firestorm on Sunday, leaving people on Twitter unsure of what exactly to believe.
A screenshot of the press release from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Black History Month Committee inviting a journalist to cover its event with “actress and civil rights activist Gina Rodriguez” was still circulating online Monday morning, but whether it was real or not remained unconfirmed. However, what is confirmed is that people across social media had strong reactions to the possibility of someone who in the past has been extremely problematic when it comes to the topic of race having anything to do with Black history, let alone the brief month it’s observed nationwide.
The full press release was even more startling than seeing Rodriguez’s name attached to a Black History Month event. It went out of its way to say that Rodriguez’s father is Black — he isn’t — and how she would only “take selfies with African American students.” It goes on to say that “We thought that Ms. Rodriguez, who has both African and Latina ancestry, would be a great inaugural speaker” for what is said was LAUSD’s upcoming series of celebrities speaking to students its during Black History Month.
While the press release did not offer a date, a closer look at the LAUSD’s website and calendar didn’t make any mention of plans to publicly (or privately) recognize Black History Month. Last year, the school district did issue a press release announcing the school board’s approval of a Black History Month celebration (although the press release was disseminated after February had already begun…)
Perhaps even more telling is how the Twitter handle for the LAUSD Black History Month Committee not only deleted its tweet promoting the event but also deleted its entire account, which could have been done out of shame or because the whole thing was a hoax. The journalist who the press release was sent also deleted her tweet with the screenshot, offering no explanation for doing so.
But in classic social media fashion, the screenshot was preserved.
Rodriguez, who is Puerto Rican, came under fire in recent months for using the N-word. Her apology for that controversy came after comments she made saying Asian and Black women get paid more than Latinx women. She even proceeded to say that her dad is “dark-skin” and “Afro-Latino,” although people dragged her for this too when they pulled up pictures revealing he wasn’t the most melanated Puerto Rican. Either way, Rodriguez has yet to identify as Black and has a tendency to ignore the plight of Black people in favor of Latinx people, making her far from the ideal person to feature at a Black History Month event.
Considering all of the above, it was unclear if the LAUSD Black History Month Committee actually exists and whether social media was the victim of one big trolling hoax.
Whatever the case, people on Twitter sounded off about how it was all in poor taste, to put it mildly. Scroll down to see some choice reactions.