Why White History Month Does’t Make Sense

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 Favorite. It was originally published February 28, 2014. Enjoy.

As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to address a sentiment that is echoed around the nation every February, without fail:”Why is there no White History Month?”

The Twitter-dome hashtags it, children repeat it, and grown adults honestly wonder when their heritage will be up for celebration. “If I say I’m proud to be white, I’m a racist,” says a blonde man while rolling his eyes. And there is truth to this, but that might be because “white” isn’t a culture, as much as a social identifier.

When it comes to celebrating culture, Americans, both black and white, do it with aplomb. I’ve heard plenty of proud Irish-Americans boast of their heritage without reproach, plenty of Southerners who celebrate traditional foods and social graces, and don’t even get me started on Italian-American pride. “I’m a good old fashioned American mutt,” one woman offers, meanwhile nobody bats an eye. Lord knows had we not destroyed the cultural roots of so many black Americans, it’s likely we’d see a similar variation of banter on the subject as well.

But where’s the White History Month? Okay, let’s start with the basics: plenty of “history months” already exist to celebrate primarily white cultures. March is Irish-American History Month; April is Confederate History Month; May is Jewish-American History Month; and October is both Italian History Month and Polish-American History Month. So in all reality, there are quite a few history months that fall under the umbrella term of “white.”

However, this reaction also serves to highlight how out of touch many of us are with the spectrum of black history. These days, while we learn far more about leaders like Fredrick Douglass and those involved in the civil rights movement, there is still a heavy leaning on Euro-centric models in science, literature and history. We all read Shakespeare but why not August Wilson? We learn about the Ottoman Empire and the rise and fall of the Nazis, but who here knows about the Belgian concentration camps in the Congo or the history of the Asante Kingdom in West Africa? We learn about Einstein, but why not David Blackwell who worked right alongside him? There is far more to black American history than slavery and civil rights, and failing to illuminate this teaches students of all colors that black achievements are not worth noting.

In Toronto, an experiment with Africentric Alternative School was introduced to help mend high dropout rates among black Canadians and increase test scores. While some called this an “experiment in segregation,” others pointed out that Chinese schools, Jewish Schools, Islamic Schools, French Schools and Portuguese Schools had all existed in Canada for some time, with little uproar from local communities.

So how did these Africentric schools do? Well, after three years, the test results came in. Not only had scores in reading, writing and math improved, but they outranked all provincial schools with scores 10-20 percent above the local average. Such facts and figures help cement the link between historical pride and academic success.

Some might wonder if blending Africentric studies with current curriculums might negate the need for black history month. While there is a need to invoke more black American history into current curriculums, removing Black History Month speaks less to our current inclusion, and far more to our desire to erase national histories that make us, well, uncomfortable

Black history month is more than just a time when we study Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railway, the Tuskegee Pilots, the 54th Civil War regiment, and the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is when we, as a nation, take culpability for the inequities laid upon black Americans. Not just from 400 years ago, not from 200 years ago, but for those very much alive today that suffered segregation.

Black American lives have been informed by such inequalities, and they deserve to have this history honored, rather than erased. And this doesn’t mean all white people should feel bad. Personally feeling bad about what happened is fine, but actually contributes nothing. However, simply recognizing that history is different for us all helps us move forward with a clear picture of where we have been. And next month, when we celebrate the contributions of Irish-Americans and women (because it’s also Women’s History Month), let’s again remember to learn about their hardships without defensive self promotion at the forefront of our minds.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Margaret G.
Margaret G.yesterday

Steve F. wrote, "... And the lectures tried to provide justification for special treatment and privileges, such as affirmative action ..."

Affirmative action is still necessary. We have all heard the saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Generally speaking the disenfranchised lack that all important network of family and friends which is so necessary to success. I got into computer programming because of my father's friends.

Margaret G.
Margaret G.yesterday

Albert Roman wrote,

" ...Whites are tired of paying for crimes their ancestors, which are all dead, committed."

A great deal of the Caucasian development of the United States was done by the grossly undercompensated labor of the slaves from Africa and their descendants. I think of reparations as a long overdue paycheck.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill8 months ago

Why can't we just have history? If schools taught all history we would not need Black History Month. Schools don't seem to be teaching much of anything anymore. The kids coming out of our schools seem to be ignorant. A lot of them can't even read and write.

Carole L.
Carole L.8 months ago

john c
“Whether you like it or not white history does matter,just like black history and anyothers...history good or bad is what it is history,you learn from it You can't just pick and choose from it...tell the whole story not just little bits and pieces.”

you mean how history books “neglect” to mention any people of colour for helping to build this country?

Bruce W.
“What about the Jews that slaughtered both Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem? What about how the Romans invaded Germania and killed millions of "barbarians"?

Don'chya just love Whataboutists.

M.N. J.
M.N. J.8 months ago

Daily Kos had a good and timely repeat this week:

"Why There's No Such Thing as 'Reverse Racism'"


The author begins with a basic and cogent definition of three terms--prejudice, discrimination, and racism--and explains how and why they are *not* interchangeable.

Most simply he states, "White people who complain about 'Reverse Racism' are actually complaining about being denied their privileges, rather than being denied their rights."

The same arguments he outlines in the article can be used to debunk claims of "Reverse Sexism," as well, in case you run into any preposterous person asking why there's no "Men's History Month" during Women's History Month (March).

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown9 months ago

Funny how you think that a direct quote is somehow "twisting your words"?

Toby L.
Past Member 9 months ago

How about you all just let us have our month and then you can go back to whining and crying about shit that never happened to you the rest of the year.
How about focusing all your rage and hate into something useful???
Maybe like stopping slavery everywhere else in the world?
No that would be to much work and effort, easier to just shame people for shit they didn't even do and then act all high and mighty all the while buying products from third world countries at slave labour prices. How much shit did you buy from China this month?? How many little Asian children suffer at your hands?? I hope you all realize how transparent and laughable your whining has become. Take a look around and realize at this point you are lucky if your ancestors were stolen and enslaved in America. It brought about an opportunity for life in America. Key word there being opportunity.
Most of the world is not so lucky, most of the world lives in conditions that make slavery almost seem desirable.
I'm not condoning slavery, just the opposite. I believe in equality for all and I also believe a person should be judged on their actions alone. Judging a person based on race and the actions of their race is racism.......even if their white

So stop being racist

Oh stop twisting my comments Kevin, One day you'll realize we both have the same end goal. Problem being your attacks are just making things worse. We need equality and unity not segregation and shame. Making personal attacks on gener

Bruce Bauer
Bruce Bauer9 months ago

I think the problem arises because of the wording, i.e. Black History month. As the article states there is an Italian-American month, Polish-American month, etc. And if you notice they are all preceded by their nationality and then followed by the word American. The Blacks set themselves apart from America by use of Black History Month as a title, that is if you follow the article's point.

Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl9 months ago

Kevin the same way that gay marriage affects hetero marriage...not at all