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Should There Be White History Month?

 

whisper

“I’m so sick of this PC bullshit. Black History month? My God, if I suggested a white history month, I’d be skewered!” ~ too many white Americans

Welcome to Black History Month, the time of year when white people still fully trapped in the white paradigm wonder  — authentically or cynically, silently or aloud – why Black History Month exists.

This wondering is the inevitable outcome of the American failure to teach the full spectrum of white history along with the many marginalized histories created by it. My 48 years trapped in the white paradigm allowed me, with a B.A. in History, to believe to my core that the history I learned was the history there was. Within the white paradigm, Black History month felt to me like a little handout to a population who needed appeasing. From the white paradigm, I silently wondered if the ongoing appeasements and handouts would ever end. Counter to its design, Black History month in fact reaffirmed for me the tragic stereotypes lodged in my white-bred belief system.

keyhole

Though I’m now learning just how narrow and warped the history I learned was, I struggle with how to use Black History Month as an opportunity to invite more white people out of the white paradigm and into a broader-perspectived mindset. Like many, I’ve tried to explain why we don’t need a white history month. And like many, I’ve used the line, “Every month is white history month.”

trapped hands

Yet, as a former white paradigm captive, I know how this approach can actually reaffirm the white mindset. “Every month is white history month” spoken by a person of color can activate stereotypes about people of color as ungrateful and always demanding something extra. “Every month is white history month” spoken by a white person can reaffirm stereotypes about white allies and activists as low-statused, ne’er-do-wells looking to assuage their pitiful low self-esteem or misplaced guilt.

Hands 2

In my experience, the most effective way to pull someone from white paradigm captivity is to provide direct and bold education about the painful and jarring white history not taught in schools. The more I think about it, the more I think a White History Month should be created. Without understanding the full white history in which all American History has played out, white paradigm captives, like I once was, will to their core believe: That Rosa Parks sat down in the white section of a bus one day because she was tired; that Christopher Columbus discovered America; and that walls and refugee bans will reduce terrorism on U.S. soil. A good look in the mirror is what’s needed, and White History Month could serve that purpose well.

What would the curriculum be? We could start with these three.

pre segregation

Birth of White Nation, by Jacqueline Battalora

Did you know that in early colonial Maryland and Virginia, laborers of all ethnic backgrounds worked, ate, and played together? In 1681, a Maryland law inserts the term “white” into law in an effort to divide and conquer restless laborers. Lawmakers' efforts succeeded in preserving rights, resources, representation, and respect for an elite few at the expense of the majority by creating a white underclass and black under-under class that would pivot from fighting the power and wealth mongerers to fighting one another. In this 40 minute Keynote, Dr. Battalora tells this story’s legal and social twists and turns with the kind of clarity non-lawyers will appreciate.

 

hand dna

 

Race: The Power of an Illusion, by California Newsreel

Think of your ten closest friends. Who do you guess has the DNA closest to yours? You might be surprised. I sure was. What about your ancestors pursuit of the American Dream? Did their ethnicity allow them to be or eventually become white? If so, what did that earn them? And, how about where you grew up? If your neighborhood, school, or church was predominantly white, do you know why? Hint: It wasn't happenstance. In my dream world, watching this three-part documentary would result in a $1,000 tax credit. A girl can dream.

carlisle

In The White Man’s Image, by American Experience, PBS

If you’re like me, when you hear the term “boarding school,” you think of the kinds of elite prep schools your friends and family went to. How much do you know about the other kind of U.S. boarding school? Learn about one of the cruelest experiments in United States history, all in the name of trying to teach whiteness to young Indigenous children. Creepiest to me is the way I see iterations of this dehumanizing approach playing out in schools still.

Until the United States figures out how to face the inevitable truth, reconciliation, and reparation process it’s been avoiding, white people courageous enough to face the truth can start spreading the word.

Love History

Where Did the Above Images Come From?
Click on the below to find out.

Whispering
Keyhole
Calendar
Trapped
Pulling Up with Hands
1600s PreSegregation
Hand with DNA
Carlisle Indian Boarding School
Keep Calm and Love History

4 thoughts on “Should There Be White History Month?

  1. Girlfriend, you are so, so awesome.  I just want you to know that.  I co-author the leading text in Employment Law (Employment Law for Business, McGraw-Hill) that created the discipline about 22 years ago.  The text is primarily about teaching people how not to discriminate in the workplace in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I've done this work for over 30 years.  I made your book a required text last semester and I don't even make mine required.  I'm just so glad you're in the world and I want you to know it.  We need you now more than ever.  Keep up the great work.

  2. Sherry Gordon says:

    Dear Debby,

    Greetings to you and to you my astounding soul sisterfriend, Debby! You are so right on in saying that it is very vitally and urgently important to have a Black History Month and always with a month and always for other women of color and people of color. All of the glorious histories, and herstories, of black people and black women and girls, and of people of color and women and girls of color are still not fully told and recognized. Sister, I so love, enjoy, and appreciate your great and dearly precious honesty here and elsewhere, Debby, and your greatly indomitable courage and capacity with your powerful openness to learn, heal, and grow in your awareness! We have all been done a great disservice and lied to harming all of us like for persons of color but also for white persons as well as James Loewen describes very aptly in his empowering book entitled, Lies My Teacher Told Me. This great book validates each and every one of us as white people with black people and other folks of color and how we have been severely shortchanged by not learning all of our true history and herstory. Debby, I totally agree with you, sisterfriend, and find your idea fascinating about needing a White HIstory Month as the black woman who I am for sure! Marvelous white persons, and in fact all of us need the true facts to be known for certain. White people, black people, and other people of color need to know more of the herstory like in learning more about the brilliant accomplishments of strong white women and white girls throughout history instead of the great overemphasis on very, very many white men and their accomplishments. We also need to be taught and to learn more about working class, white people and regarding the plight, struggles, and the strenghts as well of indigent white people, past, present, and future. Wow, what a powerful and informative video here by our very astute Dr. Jacqueline Battalora! Powerful!!!!! This must be required viewing for everyone, my friend!!!!!! Debby, all of these videos must be required viewing for everbody. Debby, what a superb blog post article here so full of such empowering and great information and resources! I thank-YOU so, sister and friend of mine, and we all do so, so very much!!!!

    Peace and Love For Always, my amazing soul sisterfriend, Debby

    Yours For Always soul sisterfriend, Sherry Gordon

  3. Cloyce Burcham says:

    My whiteness is imbedded in 77 years of living.  In that period I've learned and experienced a lot.  If my paraphase of Alvin Toffler's definition of iliteracy for the 21st century is correct (the inability to learn, unlearn, and relearn)  will take as many decades to complete.  Even though I won't  be here for the completion, I'll start it and work for a new balance between whiteness and blackness.

  4. will singleton says:

    Hi Debbie,

    Excellent piece,  I hope a lot of people read it.  However, even if most people learn more about the real history of America, 

    I worry that it won't make enough of a difference if technology continues to make more and more people obsolete in terms 

    of the job market.  Scapegoating and racism will be used in the fight for fewer jobs.  I hope I am wrong.

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