Alaysia B. Smith
Throughout America’s history, Caucasians have repeatedly and successfully separated themselves from ethnic minorities.
They’ve excluded us from their public spaces, such as restaurants, buses, theaters, and libraries. They’ve excluded us from entertainment, politics, and education. While most would like to believe that this issue is a thing of the past, the truth is it’s still very present in society today. Caucasians can go their entire lives never having to learn about a culture other then their own, if they so chose to. This is an aspect of white privilege, societal advantages that benefit whites in western societies.
This exclusion has impacted minority Americans and has lead to the creation of multiple cultural and heritage months. Because the historical contributions of African-Americans weren’t acknowledged in public schools, Negro History Week was created in 1926, which then expanded into Black History Month in 1970. Since Black History Month has become a staple in American class rooms, many have wondered why there isn’t a “White History Month.”
Anyone who advocates for “White History Month” seems to have the “we want it because you have it” mentality. What many fail to realize is that there are many cultural months dedicated to those of European ancestry. Some may feel that Black History Month is unnecessary, however the continued exclusion of blacks has made it necessary. This pattern is seen in other aspects of society as well.
While historical black colleges and universities were founded for African Americans, they’re open for anyone to attend.The lack of television shows targeted for black audiences lead to the creation of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) channel, which again, anyone can view. Black culture, experiences, and issues have never assimilated into American culture because the concept of “whiteness” is, and always has been, it’s default setting. This is why a Black History Month exists and it’s counterpart doesn’t.
However, there are still issues when it comes to Black History Month. In school I enjoyed Black History Month because it was a subject I knew. Yet I felt like my teachers had to stop mid lesson plan just to take a detour to include a black history assignment. And lets’ not forget about the hundreds of times we learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the underground railroad, or the Montgomery bus boycott. While important, it boils down black history to a few key people and moments.
Barely ever talked about are the other hundreds of people, places, and events that shaped America. I also feel that Black History Month could be used to teach about black culture, the effects of slavery, how black people are portrayed in the media, and so on. Instead the opportunity is wasted on learning about the exact same people and events, year after year.
It would be easy to say that there’s no “White History Month” because every day is “White History Month”. The truth is, there is no such thing as “White History Month” because we can’t lump together the Irish, English, Polish, German, etc. Their journeys are their own. So why is American society content with lumping together the journeys of blacks? Black History Month exists because it highlights our achievements that were unrecognized and excluded from white society. African Americans have to continuously form their own collective space because society has yet to fully include them.
No one wants to have their history confined to one month. Doing this minimizes the people, events, and importance for which the month represents. African Americans having their own historical month is reminiscent of the Jim Crow days: Separate but equal. Society needs to integrate black history into mainstream history. Because in the end, I don’t believe in white history or black history. I believe in American history.