With Black History Month around the corner, the creation of a “Whiteness History Month” is definitely striking at first glance. But after reading further into it, I could not agree more that it is a project that we could all learn from.
Portland Community College has made a brave but important decision to open up a discussion about whiteness. According to PCC’s website, whiteness is not to be confused with the term white, which describes people. “It refers to the construction of the white race, white culture, and the system of privileges and advantages afforded to white people in the U.S. (and across the globe) through government policies, media portrayal, decision-making power within our corporations, schools, judicial systems, etc,” the website states.
So many people complain about the fact that Black History Month exists, to the point that they complain about the lack of a “White History Month.” But the fact of the matter is that every month is White History Month. Even today, in 2016, history books from the elementary to the college level fail to show a more complete and accurate account of past events, even those involving the history of our country.
I took a post-Civil War American history class last summer, and for my final assignment, we had to write a short essay about a topic of our choice from a specific list. I chose to speak about the Freedom Riders. We were to research the topic, using the textbook and other credible sources, and I turned to the book and the Internet for information. I’m 21–years–old and in college, but in a piece on the History Channel’s website, I learned more about the Freedom Riders than from any textbook I was assigned to study from.
The black community has become restless as we are killed and mistreated daily but urged to keep quiet. The shootings of unarmed black youth have gained more publicity in the last year as the public slowly begins to wake up, and I strongly believe that it’s due to the fact that, as a country, we are generally much more educated than we were 100 years ago. Whiteness History Month is the next step to furthering the education and expanding the minds of our nation.
Conservatives have created an uproar in response to this project. An article from Right Wing News complains that its purpose is “not to acknowledge the disproportionate level of accomplishment among whites but to shame us for it.” He’s not completely wrong — I’m sure there is a disproportionate level of accomplishment among whites. But that isn’t hard to do when throughout history, black people were enslaved, oppressed and treated like animals.
Whiteness History isn’t a celebration: It’s a look into how white supremacy has shaped our nation and how we still feel its effects today. And if you want to destroy the program, then you are part of the problem.
Kristin James is a Contributing Columnist with the Central Florida Future.