The media is all over Cardi B for making a video with democratic socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. People who don’t know her are quick to dismiss her as an “uninformed, uneducated Black woman rapper.” But those of us who are Cardi fans know she has always been a history and social studies nerd.
According to her high school Advanced Placement Government & Politics teacher, Joan Hill, Cardi B has been deeply interested in U.S. history, politics and government for a long time. In a viral Facebook post from last February, Hill said, “She probably scored higher than you on the US History Regents exam.”
Last year, she schooled her GQ interviewer on a key piece of recent U.S. history—informing the journalist that Franklin Delano Roosevelt started Social Security. Just a few days ago, she supported Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to stop Chicago’s punitive practice of suspending licenses on the working poor.
As a Cardi B fan, I’ve always known that she has a brilliant political and historical mind. But just when I didn’t think I could love Cardi B any more, she raised the bar by giving an impromptu 14-minute lesson on the experiences of Black people in the Americas from her car. You can find it on Instagram or watch it here.
She gave it in her authentic Cardi B style (lots and lots of swear words!) and it was brilliant. She explained the European colonization of Africa and the Americas in a down-to-earth way that is perfect for so many students, especially our Black students, who attend schools where Black history is never taught.
As she says, “A lot of people don’t know the difference between nationality, race, ethnicity...That’s actually the schools’ fault because schools don’t be teaching that shit to people.”
Cardi B Gives A Lesson on How Race Differs from Ethnicity
Scientifically speaking, race does not exist; new findings in genetics show the variation within the groups we call “races” is larger than the variation across those groups. Yet race is one of the most powerful social classifications in the world.
People of the Black race can be many different ethnicities. This is something that many African Americans (ethnicity) and many U.S. residents of all ethnicities and races struggle with understanding about people who speak different languages, especially Spanish.
For example, as Cardi B explains, Mexicans and Dominicans both speak Spanish, but the Spanish of each ethnicity has different dialects and word meanings. Cardi B says she doesn’t always understand what Mexican people are saying to her because their styles of Spanish are different. This is the same as Americans, British, Irish, South Africans and Jamaicans, who all speak English but use different dialects and word meanings within English, which can sometimes be confusing.
Cardi B was able to brilliantly explain that she is not Mexican, nor is she White. She is Black Dominican. She went on to explain the Black history of the Dominican Republic, noting it was one of the first places to import enslaved Africans. She also noted how many people, especially African Americans, don’t realize that Black people, those victims of slavery trade, went to different countries, that were run by Europeans from different countries. Her family got on a boat owned by the Spanish and went to the Dominician Republic. Thus, she speaks Spanish.
In just 14 minutes, Cardi B managed to teach these tough concepts of Blackness better than most teachers do in schools. I am so grateful to Cardi B for offering this desperately-needed Black social studies class. I am working to create a Black race curriculum that discusses the Diaspora, but until I am finished, I suggest people with Black children listen to Cardi B’s explanation. And if you are a U.S. or world history teacher who feels unsure about how to teach the history of the African Diaspora and its impact on the Americas, consider showing this video to your students and holding a discussion. It is a better social studies lesson on Blackness than I ever got from school.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson is the mother of two free-spirited, strong-willed girls and has a husband who should be appointed a saint for co-existing in the madness that is their life. She writes on politics, education, current events and social justice. She is also a taco enthusiast, a proud member of the Bey-hive, and truly believes that she will be receiving her letter from Hogwarts any day now.