"Because every month is white history month."
That’s usually the answer that comes to mind whenever someone asks why there is no white history month. It’s such a common response that it’s become something of a cliché, a line from a script on how to deal with tone-deaf questions about race.
It’s the simplified answer to something that’s admittedly far more complex. In order to understand why there is no officially recognized White History Month, you need to understand that white history, whiteness on the whole, is the dominant narrative. This is just a fact.
To settle the score once and for all, HuffPost Black Voices produced a video spelling out exactly why white history month isn’t necessary. (You can watch that above!)
While in recent years words like "diversity" and "representation" have become buzzwords, whiteness is still a kind of default identity setting in American culture. It’s the prism through which we are socialized to view beauty and consume pop culture. It’s the reason why so many people (white and black) assumed Rue from "The Hunger Games" was white, even though she was explicitly described as black by Suzanne Collins.
So, rather than asking why there isn’t a white history month, ask why we have a Black History Month to begin with. When "Negro History Week" was created in 1926 by scholar Carter G. Woodson, it was to combat the erasure of black history in American culture. Black history has, for the most part, been stolen from Black-Americans who have few ties to their African roots that aren’t linked to the history of slavery and segregation.
Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Heritage Month, and all the other months dedicated to marginalized people are not part of some conspiracy, some cool club that won’t let white people join in on the fun. While these month-long celebrations are important and beautiful, there’s nothing particularly "fun" about recognizing that if a month wasn’t designated to celebrating your culture and race, perhaps we never would.
It isn’t inherently racist to be proud of your race or culture or to want them recognized and celebrated. And yet it’s important to remember that "Black Lives Matter" does not mean "White Lives Do Not Matter," the existence of a Black History Month does not mean white people have not made significant contributions to the history of the world.
This is a question and an answer that comes up every February. Black History Month does not take anything away from white people. It doesn’t mean white people aren’t special. It’s simply a necessary, a vital celebration of our achievements that would otherwise go unrecognized. Period.
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