White History Month
Not surprisingly, there’s been a lot of discussion kicked up by my “White History Month” photoset from Friday. I’m guessing that, sadly, this post won’t reach all of the people who helped kick that post around Tumblr some 20,000+ times. Still, this reply seems an important one to make.
A number of people have written to me to demand that I explain why I included one tweet that asked about the lack of months designated for other ethnicities: “Where’s latino history month? Where’s asian history month? Where’s white history month? Where’s native American history month?”
Here’s someone who just cares about equality, many commenters have proclaimed; he’s not a racist!
One thing’s for sure: He’s not much of a researcher.
September 15-October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month.
November is Native American Heritage Month.
These heritage months — and all of the others that exist — have dedicated government websites, filled with information. Many communities around the country put on events to celebrate the distinct history and culture, and to recognize the contributions of its members to our society.
In short, this is a fascinating comment … but only insofar as it shows how many people never visit their public library, where there’s almost always a table set up to showcase authors from particular cultures each month, and how many people are much quicker to complain about Black History Month than to, for example, do a Google search.
It’s also fascinating because it’s a comment — like most White History Month tweets and comments — whose author is intent on masquerading as someone who cares desperately about equality.
Of course, there’s also a strain of commentary whose authors attack Black History Month because it’s racist insofar as it highlights some people based on their skin color. These commenters are mostly white teenagers who claim to be color blind or to live in some sort of post-racial America. They love equality so much that they don’t want Black History Month or White History Month … they just want it all to be history. I have no doubt that they believe these things to be true about themselves, or that they want them to be true. But, alas, they are not true.
These people either can’t or don’t understand that the vast majority of “textbook history,” at least in the United States, is still written by and about white people. And this is a problem that’s particularly relevant for white teens, as they’re currently taking courses in American and European history; they are consuming little information that isn’t white history, even as they complain about the ways in which Black History Month perpetuates racial identification over our common humanity. People of color, women, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ community have been given short shrift in our educational system for as long as it has existed; allowing that this has been the case and attempting to supplement our historical knowledge is a pretty worthwhile idea. If you don’t believe me, maybe you can quickly send me a note with a list of twenty important historical or cultural achievements made by African-Americans.
But they’re also sorely mistaken if they really believe that there’s something inherently problematic with celebrating the distinct histories, cultures, and people who have made the country what it is today. That’s not racism or reverse racism or whatever other kind of nonsense they think it is. That’s a way of encouraging a well-rounded education that might help bring about the utopian future that these commenters think has already arrived. And a video clip of Morgan Freeman from 2005, which has been sent to me dozens of times, isn’t going to convince me otherwise. Unlike some people out there, I don’t think Morgan Freeman speaks for (or happens to be) every African-American.
Now, would it be better if there was magically no further need of specific months dedicated to different minority populations in America? You bet. If it really was the case, as Morgan Freeman wants to claim, that Black history is treated like the part of American history that it is, we’d be in much better shape as a society today than we actually are. But the only way that we won’t need a Black History Month is if we take a good look at the way that history is taught and culture is celebrated in this country with a view to seamlessly integrating the historical and cultural experiences and achievements of minority communities.
Until that time, I’d say it’s a good idea to dial back these inane calls for White History Month and these nonsensical comments about how Black History Month perpetuates racism.