Well folks, it’s almost Black History Month again!
And as we all know, the biggest problem with Black History Month is that there is no equivalent for white people, there is no ‘White History Month’.
… wait, what?
That’s right, there’s no single White History Month, because there are eleven white history months. There’s no White History Month because white history is not pushed aside and ignored to the point of needing to slow down and say “well hang on now, let’s think about white people for a minute!” There’s no White History Month because in our current culture, WHITE HISTORY is practically synonymous with HISTORY. And all of that is a problem. It’s also a problem that so many white people have such blinders on to their own privilege that they could ever assume that not having a white history month is a detriment to them, when it is actually part of the very fabric of white privilege.
Actually, it is a detriment to white people, in that racism, especially culturally sanctioned and imbedded racism, is a detriment to all people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, equality is not about trying to be MORE equal than anybody else, it’s about trying to set up a world where we are all equal. That means that lifting up minorities does not threaten the majority position. That means letting go of our hierarchies. Ideally, that means seeing history as WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST as opposed to WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST AS IT PERTAINS TO “IMPORTANT” WHITE MEN.
Maybe you think that I’m exaggerating? Maybe you are saying “I’ve heard people of color mentioned in history books other than in February!” to which I would respond with two points:
2) only when they did something that was important to white people! For example, when I was in school I only learned about the indigenous people of North America in terms of when and how they interacted with white people. The whole time there were disputes and sometimes friendships going on between the settlers and the natives, there were also tribal wars and all sorts of other things going on among the many nations that populated this continent. And yet we learned only about their interactions with Europeans, because that is what was important to white history.
So tomorrow begins Black History Month, a whole month when we (sometimes) discuss history that is not solely white history. Of course ideally, this would not be necessary. Ideally, we would talk about and teach all history all the time, not just the history of “important” white men. Ideally we would talk about the important contributions of African Americans to the history of America all year round, and we would also talk about first nation people and even countries that aren’t the United States sometimes (wouldn’t that be grand)! But we do not live in an ideal world, and history is still largely the pastime and province of white men out to glorify other white men. Until we teach history in a more equal way, Black History Month is a drop in the bucket, a small and important step towards including the histories of all people. Children of color deserve to know that white men were not the only people to ever accomplish things, and for many, Black History Month might help to show them that. For white kids, Black History Month can and should serve as an important reminder that lots and lots of people have done important things, not just people who look like them. Hurray!
Yet, some white people are still upset about it.
So I have a solution that’s bound to make everyone happy. Let’s go ahead and institute White History Month! We can have March, maybe, so we don’t have to wait too long? (I’d say January since white people probably want to be first, but goodness knows some folks will be upset that they “missed” it!) We can have White History Month, but that means that we no longer get eleven white history months per year. That way, the playing field will actually be leveled! For one month of the year we can talk about the important contributions to history and society by white leaders, and I’m sure we’ll find there’s plenty else to talk about for the other ten months.
If you’d like to suggest a topic for me to discuss this Black History Month, I’d love to hear it!