Sean Jacobs | March 7th, 2014


Every February in the U.S. schools, McDonald’s, television, corporations, the advertising industry, celebrate Black History Month. The whole thing is a charade. That black people don’t get a break from police brutality, plain murder, red lining, profiling or plain neglect, whether here, in the UK or places like South Africa, doesn’t matter. In 2007, Gary Younge (he is an ally) suggested that what we all needed is a White History Month. Gary reminded us: “So much of Black History Month takes place in the passive voice. Leaders ‘get assassinated,’ patrons ‘are refused’ service, women ‘are ejected’ from public transport. So the objects of racism are many but the subjects few. In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility … There is no month when we get to talk about [James] Blake [the white busdriver challenged by Rosa Parks]; no opportunity to learn the fates of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who murdered Emmett Till; no time set aside to keep track of Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, whose false accusations of rape against the Scottsboro Boys sent five innocent young black men to jail. Wouldn’t everyone–particularly white people–benefit from becoming better acquainted with these histories?” So, dear readers–in the service of good sense and because we love celebrations–this March is the inaugural White History Month on Africa is a Country. Yes, we’re a few days late, we know, but good things take time some time. Stay tuned.

Steve McQueen and the Dutch
Finding the Afro- in Brazil
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Sean Jacobs

Otherwise known as Hasan Wasan.

18 thoughts on “#WhiteHistoryMonth

  1. Could you also include what the Native American has endured with an absurd lack of acknowledgement or apology? If you’re going to make it White History Month, go the whole hog, I say.

  2. What a fantastic idea! Implementing it though might be easier said than done, considering that the media, um… the white media acts as gate keeper and will keep the black out.

    But,Isa, to go the whole hog will surely turn it into White history year, considering the long list to pick from. Unless, that is, we make a draft format based on a fantasy league system where the most notorious (across locales and offended groups )are picked and featured, with the rest making a symbolic appearance. Based on how well the stars do (or new extenuating info comes to light) other offenders can be drafted to step up.
    That is also most fair, removes the certainty for AIAC to be biased, and would make non-blacks feel to have some skin in this game.

  3. Did you get the photographer’s permission to use that image? Or are you like, fuck copyright and author attribution, artists don’t deserve any respect, especially integrous, hardworking artists like David Goldblatt?

    • Adam: We’ve attributed the pic. That was an unintended oversight. As for your aggression, not sure where that’s coming from, especially against us–it’s not like we’re making money off Goldblatt’s work, except getting it to new audiences.

  4. As much as I agree that this is needed – and not just in places like the US or South Africa or Australia, but also very much in Europe and elsewhere – I feel that it could end up as a conversation about individual or collective guilt. Agency as a concept only makes sense if we combine it with an analysis of structure and historical process.

    Critical Whiteness Studies have already developed an analytical toolbox for the way that racism works for those it privileges, but all too often I see analyses taking this label and then simply doing an analysis of racism and describing whites as perpetrators. As much as people need to acknowledge their own privilege in their everyday lives (and, politically and historically, take responsibility for it), a historical analysis should go beyond that level and tell us something about our societies.

    I’m not very familiar with US history, but reading up (admittedly, on the internet) on Price and Bates, they seem to have been under pressure to defend their “virtue”, having been accused of prostitution. So there are more layers to that history than individual maliciousness. That doesn’t make their accusations better, but I am not a lawyer, I’m a historian, and I’m not interested in individual motive, but social dynamics. A “White History Month” is needed, but it should not act as juridical process rather than a conversation about history.

    • By the way, my source for the history of Price and Bates:

      “Price had first gone to work as a spinner at age 10, alongside her mother, but after her mother suffered an injury, young Victoria earned all the money they had. Her 1931 wages, $1.20 a day, were only half of what she had been making before the Depression, in 1929. The Hunstville Deputy Sheriff told a researcher for the American Civil Liberties Union that Price supplemented her earnings with prostitution. Other neighbors reported that black men were among her patrons. Price herself insisted that she was virtuous and ruined by the black youths on the train.”

  5. “In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility… So, dear readers–in the service of good sense and because we love celebrations–this March is the inaugural White History Month.”

    Let me get this straight… James Blake, JW Milam, Roy Bryant, Victoria Price, and Ruby Bates are the 5 people you highlighted. Because those 5 names are not mentioned enough, in the spirit of a month created to celebrate the positive accomplishments of a race of people historically slighted, due to racist generalization of a whole group of people based on stereotypical minorities, you want to create a new month celebration of the negative accomplishments of a race of people… “White History Month”… to remind everyone that those 5 names belong to white people?

    Do I have to explain how racist that is?

      • Dan kinda laid it out in plain English. Every race can be equally racist and while just highlighting the negatives of one race you your self are being a racist. Thats like if i celebrated black history month by thinking about how much more likely blacks are to be incarcerated (i have been myself btw), more likely to commit crimes against their own community, more likely to be poor and/or unemployed, sickle cell anemia, the whole start of AIDS or the fact that Africa is the poorest continent on earth with the highest chance of being land that has a war/ genocide occuring there at any time. If you can’t figure that out we could try to make a retard history month just for you.

  6. James Blake, the busdriver who didn’t like blacks. James Blake, the singer’s stage name whose music is for a big part inspired by black gospel. There might be more than just coincidence.

  7. As a history lesson, it makes sense to tell the whole story. The problem is that Black History Month is nothing but a series of 30-second TV spots with a few anecdotes thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. As an aside, American Indians have not earned the respect of any annual TV spots, because they were essentially exterminated – forgotten – we don’t have to talk about them. I often, almost always, think of this when I see flags flying in yards. There is so much shame, and it’s all so expertly hidden.

  8. So you want to make the whole month just about the negative aspects of white society? Because if we’re going to use white history month in that manner we can do the same for black history month. And truth be told blacks have just as much of a negative history as whites. And if we want to go back in time far enough Africans were just as savage as Europeans and Asians, Africans just lacked the technology and economy to carry out their negative impacts on others on a global scale like the latter two did.

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