Last week I reported on calls, from around the country, for a “Whiteness History Month.” A call for exploring whiteNESS. Whiteness History Month would ask the country to spend 30 days examining the history of whiteness, how it came into being and changed over time, how it is has influenced U.S. history since before there was a USA, and the role it is playing now.
Perhaps the most prominent call has come from Portland Community College in Oregon. Their faculty and student body have been working on this project since last fall in advance of the observance scheduled for April of this year. More on this in last week’s report — Ready for Whiteness History Month? — including resources for college and for younger students, and we will be following through April.
Meanwhile, Jason Chestnut, Evangelical Lutheran minister known as @CrazyPastor on Twitter, continues Tweeting on “the history of white power and privilege in the United States and how it is relevant today.” Yesterday’s Tweet, for example, speaks of Black Wall Street, once located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Black Wall Street was the wealthiest Black community in the U.S. before it was attacked by a white army in 1921; it was burned to the ground, and hundreds of Black people were killed. This history, @CrazyPastor reminds us, was absent from U.S. school books until 2001 – when the Oklahoma state legislature passed a law creating a historical record – and it is still rarely taught.
It will take more than a few Tweeted history tidbits to create a Whiteness History Month of any substance. And why should educators – in- and outside of classrooms – take on this additional, sensitive, task at a time when teachers are under so much stress from so many quarters?
One answer comes from author Nelly Fuller, Jr., who writes:
“If you do not understand White Supremacy – what it is, and how it works, everything else that you understand, will only confuse you.”
Zoé Samudzi, Staff Writer for Harlot, explains a bit more fully in her recent piece, “A Case for White History Month.” She writes:
Whiteness History Month would not only contest retellings of history that normalize racial dominance, but in displacing dominant narratives, this educational programming would disrupt the maintenance of white ignorance (i.e. racialized ways of knowing and not knowing or refusing to know) in one vital site: educational spaces. Schools and universities aren’t simply places of learning: they are spaces where knowledge is generated, where revised histories are widely shared. The ability to generate knowledge directly translates into social, cultural, and political capital and power: the ability to disseminate a knowledge that normalizes hegemony represents the continuation of a Eurocentric colonial project.