AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

White History Month
Sean Jacobs | February 3rd, 2011

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… 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? What we need, in short, is a White History Month … The very notion of black and white history is both a theoretical nonsense and a practical necessity. There is no scientific or biological basis for race. It is a construct to explain the gruesome reality that racism built. But, logic suggests, you cannot have black history without white history. Of course, the trouble is not that we do not hear enough about white history but that what masquerades as history is more akin to mythology. The contradictions of how a “free world” could be founded on genocide, or how the battle for democracy during the Second World War could coincide with Japanese internment and segregation, for example, are rarely addressed … It would offer white people options and role models and all of us inspiration while relieving the burden on African-Americans to recast the nation’s entire racial history in the shortest month of the year. White people, like black people, need access to a history that is accurate, honest and inclusive. Maybe then it would be easier for them, and the rest of us, to make history that is progressive, antiracist and inclusive.

Journalist Gary Younge in a 2007 column in “The Nation”–that’s still worth repeating–on Black History Month (that’s every February here in the US).

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Sean Jacobs

Otherwise known as Hasan Wasan.

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4 thoughts on “White History Month

  1. I am all for white history month. The only problem with your article is that you picked out the negative things that whites have done. I want a white history month that remembers the good things white people did, like starting this country. White people could just as well say that they want to be better educated on black people like Malcom X, and why not OJ and Tupac. i am not a racist, just somebody who is sick of black people milking it.

  2. Open a history book…..from K-college we are taught more than enough about "white history". We KNOW, or should know if you are educated, what "white" people have done throughout history. Problem is that up until the mid 60-70s, nothing was printed telling what black people have done throughout history except get lynched, persecuted and so on. There is not a white history month because every month, still, is white history month.

  3. I think the solution to everyone hating each other over the months would be to abolish them altogether. I can't speak from the black perspective, but I know the idea of Women's History Month always makes me sick- it's like saying that the other eleven months of the year are Men's History Month, and that half the world's population only garners one month of attention. It's like a consolation prize for women's exclusion from the rest of the history books.

    If schools and society could actually teach history as history, without race, gender, and sexuality markers, maybe it would all feel less patronizing and insulting.

  4. Dear Sean Jacobs,
    Would you please tell me from whom you obtained permission to use my photograph of members of the Voortrekkers movement to illustrate “White History Month”? and would you please tell me why you have not made attribution to me for the photograph?

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