“Why don’t we have a white history month?”
That’s a question I hear almost every February. Often times the retort has been “every month is white history month”. To a degree that it is true, but we don’t tell the entire history. The answer to why we don’t celebrate white history is pretty darker. I don’t think people would want to have white history month if we told the entire story.
Though it’s been gone for forty years, this sign still cast a shadow. As I told a group of middle and high school students at a church service last week, you don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it, in fact I hope you hate it, but you have to own it.
The reason I’m writing about the ugly side of what you could call “white history”, is because black history has become white washed. In school I learned about Dr. King, Fredrick Douglas, Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman and others. I could name their inventions, contributions, why they were important, but their plight and struggle is often overlooked.
We never sugar coat what the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. The horrific details are taught in world history classes very early. This is because it was done at the hands of evil foreigners. When we look back at our history we don’t want to admit what we did. In school you learn about segregation meaning people were just kept apart.. You don’t see the brutality of the police, the cruelty of politicians and others in power that did all they could to make blacks feel less than human. When you learn about slavery, it’s almost talked about as if it was a room and board program. What you never hear in American history classes are some of the forms of torture used on slaves that would make things seen in the movie Saw look amateur.
Growing up where I did, once I saw the truth I could not turn a blind eye to it. And just because it’s called history doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist. I’ve seen employees in stores follow shoppers around just because of the color of their skin. Taking a friend home from school that lived in predominately black area got me pulled over with the officer wanting to know what my business was there and why the two of us were riding together. I was given a copy of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” as a teen and was called a “wigger” for having the audacity to listen to something outside of country music. That was fine with me, if that’s what I had to be. Whatever it took to make me nothing like those I grew up around.
But as much as I don’t like these things, they are part of my history, and I own that. I also have to be Christian before I’m anything else. I see so many whites today that get offended by many things. That’s a luxury we don’t have as Christians. We have to lay down our rights to being offended. We also have to understand that we don’t have all the answers, the right perspective or everything figured out. Just because history tries to paint us as the good guys, we often had failures that others aren’t just going to forgive. It’s not that easy. Nothing worth having is ever easy, but relations can be better.
What I want to see, my hope for the future is we can all come together. The past is never going to be forgotten. It’s too ugly, too devastating. We can work together, we just have to understand each other’s point of view, it’s not black and white, and for things to get better we will have to work in the gray.
28 Days is a project about perspectives of people whose lives intertwine with the black struggle either personally or through others close to them. Along with their perspective they entrust us with what they hope for moving forward.
We hope this helps drive conversation, breaks down barriers and incites change.
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