Viewing the past through the lens of privilege obscures who got hurt in the process. White America needs saving from its myopia
The Republican presidential campaign has persuaded me. Not to vote for Mitt Romney, God no. They have, however, convinced me of something else I previously considered unthinkable. In some ways, the idea betrays my black nationalist inclinations, but having witnessed the GOP’s flailing for the past year and a half as they’ve tried to mount a campaign to unseat President Obama, I’ve finally come around.
We need a White History Month.
For anyone who speaks on issues of race publicly, the idea has long been a joke – a retort thrown at you from frustrated white folks who believe they are being discriminated against because there doesn’t exist a special month set aside to celebrate their racial identity. They cry foul at the notion of Black History Month, Black Entertainment Television, Black Enterprise and everything else with “black” in the title – even, sometimes, going so far as to say these things are racist in nature because their names and missions are “discriminatory”. It’s preposterous, but they counter that they need a White History Month to provide balance and equality.
After laughing this off for years, I’m now on the same page.
I don’t mean White History in the same way we (attempt) to celebrate Black History during February, or Women’s History in March. Where these are intended to correct an imbalance in the way history is celebrated from an overwhelming white male perspective, White History Month need not rehash the tales of great white heroism. We need a different approach here.
I mean for us to have a White History Month in the way James Baldwin once suggested a White History Week. During a speech before the National Press Club in 1986, he presented the idea and was later questioned about the seriousness of his remark. He responded:
“I was not joking about White History Week … I’m serious about that. White Americans really do not not know their history, and that’s one of the reasons they’re in trouble. And when I suggest White History Week, I’m not making a parody of Black History Week, but I’m suggesting that the truth about this country is buried in the myths that white people have about themselves. These myths have to be excavated and only can be excavated by white people.”
Check out the rest of Mychal Denzel Smith’s article on The Guardian