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"Why is there no white history month?" Here's Why.

Just a week or so before the start of Black History Month, my little sister showed me screen shots from a white classmate's Snapchat story, where the girl asked the age-old question, "Why is there a black history month? We don't get a white history month." My sister was deeply triggered; she was very frustrated, and started talking with another (black) classmate on FaceTime about the incident. It was frustrating to me to hear the hurt of these 8th graders, as their young minds tried to articulate and explain why we have Black History Month. I listened in as they shared their lived experiences with racism that their white classmate could never truly understand. 

 

I heard the girls talk a lot about slavery and what our people endured during that time, and state that as the reason we have Black History Month. I began to process to myself how so often, we limit Black history to slavery. But black people are so much more than slavery. I knew then that it was time for me to talk with my sister and help her process. 

 

So what should have been a fun trip to Kohl's to get a cute outfit for her cousin's quarantine/at home sweet 16 birthday dinner turned into us browsing the clothing racks while talking through the racial oppression and trauma of America (see how harmful racial oppression is? It literally has the power to disrupt and steal black joy in the most basic and day to day ways. Black people live this reality DAILY.). I told my sister that while slavery is a part of our history and we recognize and honor our ancestors, the sacrifices they made, and how they persevered, moving our people forward against all odds, this is not the full scope of our history. I explained that Black people have and continue to do remarkable things - invent, discover, create, be the first, break records, give, and sacrifice. And it's not that white people don't do these things, too; what's different is that:

 

  1. Black people are often overlooked instead of recognized and/or celebrated for their contributions,
  2. Black people's success is often co-opted and appropriated by, and/or credited to others (often white people), and
  3. it must be acknowledged that the playing field is completely unleveled, making it rightful and necessary to intentionally create ways and spaces that highlight black history because of the fact that racism is systemic, and systems and structures have and continue to work against Black people.
It is for similar reason that "history months" exists for various marginalized identities - Women's History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and many more (Note: if you find yourself okay with any of these months but not okay with all of them, we encourage you to reflect on and unpack how you truly feel/what you believe, as it is likely that it's not the history month that you have an issue with; your issue is likely with who is being celebrated.).  

 

When the "Father of Black History," Carter G. Woodson, had the idea for "Negro History Week," the purpose was to celebrate a group of people who many felt had no place in history. A people who were stolen from their homes and forced into slavery. A people who were denied their freedom. A people who weren't even considered whole people. A people who were denied civil rights. A people who were denied education. A people who were denied employment. A people who are oppressed, abused, and murdered simply for the color of their skin. A people who are denied access and resources. And yet a people who invent, create, and discover things that have changed and continue to change the day to day life and quality of life in America and the world. A people who have and continue to contribute to some of the most enjoyed aspects of American culture. A people who push down barriers and break ceilings that pave the way for not only black people, but the entire country and world, to move forward. A people who find and share joy despite the hatred that comes against them everyday. A people who continue to prove themselves loyal to this country when the feeling is yet to be mutual. 

 

So that, my little sister, is why we celebrate Black History Month. 

 

About this blog: This blog was created by PIE (Purpose In Everything), a start-up social enterprise that sells everyday products, adding purpose by ensuring that the products are made ethically, being sweatshop-free and often environmentally friendly. Shop PIE's "woke tees" (social justice apparel) and best-selling handmade soaps today!

 

Additionally, PIE believes that education, (un)learning, and dialogue are essential to creating social change. Because of this, PIE offers general diversity education consulting, and fraternity and sorority- focused diversity education, including Black Greeks for Black Lives. Through workshops, trainings, and keynotes, PIE facilitates spaces of challenge and learning, with the goal of building understanding.

 

Once profitable, PIE commits to practicing social change philanthropy by donating 5% of profits toward social change work (PIE5).


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2 comments

  • Thank you. Your blog is the first thing I have read that credits white people with being other than cruel, snobbish, privileged Karens. It is also the first I have read where slavery is put in it’s proper place in the past; but that your ancestors should be remembered and honored for what they endured; and, that there are other reasons to celebrate Black History.

    I am white. I read a variety of publications to get more balanced information. I have no way of knowing, however, how accurate these essays are. Some leave the impression that the author has healing whip marks on their back. Some drip hatred while hiding behind accusations of white privilege. I don’t know how to separate these from the umbrella group they all embrace:. Black Lives Matter. These hate-filled authors make me dislike BLM. My logical mind tells me these few do not speak for the many. But I will continue to read, looking for those who are reaching for resolution.

    Again, thank you.

    • Anne Duncan
  • It pains me that the education system is so flawed in the teaching of Black History. I’m glad that you are using your platform to spread the real information.

    • Ronald