Why Not “White History Month”?

I hear this every February, which is nationwide “Black History Month”:

“Well, why don’t we have ‘White History Month’? The blacks get their own month — why not us?”

I’ll be brief, because a longer response would likely confuse those whose petulance and historical ignorance is evinced by the question.  One, “white” means “to the exclusion of Black/Latino/Native American.”  It doesn’t mean “Irish,” or “Italian,” or “German.”  It means exactly what the picture in your mind when you hear it conjures up — the exclusion of Blacks and other people of color.

Second, all of American History throughout the nation’s inception has been presented from the white male point of view.  That’s the fruit of a sinful world, a country birthed by sin, and a sinful elevation of non-Blackness and maleness.  We’ve had more than 200 years of “white history,” because only the experiences of white people throughout the United States’ existence have been deemed an accurate record of the significant events of this nation’s history.

In the same way that your autobiography will include information about you and not a great deal of information about your neighbor’s cousin Jerry, the written and taught history of the U.S. has been considered its “autobiography,” gathered, written, interpreted, and disseminated by white males as the only story worth telling.  Only in recent decades have the stories of the United States been considered a BIOGRAPHY — a record that can and must invite other voices.  Those voices tell the stories of those deliberately shut out of places of significance, positions of influence, and platforms of power, and they are and have been desperately needed.

For most of its existence, the U.S. historical narrative has been an autobiographical account of White Male and his power.  Black History Month should, for almost two and a half centuries, simply have been part of the fabric of United States history.  The original besetting sin  of this country — racist patriarchy — ensured that it wouldn’t.

Those whose stories have been the only ones heard betray their privilege by questioning the validity of other peoples’.  And, as with any other sin, repentance and reform is the only remedy.

 

 

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