“But, why isn’t there a white history month?”
This an argument I’m all too familiar with hearing once February rolls around. If I’m being honest, it gets exhausting having to explain why there’s nothing wrong with taking one month (which is also the shortest month) out of the year to celebrate the history of your culture.
This year, the all too familiar question came in a different form. Recently, I was asked about my thoughts on Morgan Freeman’s opinion about Black History Month. If you’re unfamiliar with what he said about it, I’ll give you a quick rundown.
Back in a 2005 interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, when asked about his thoughts on Black History Month, Freeman summed up his thoughts in one word- “ridiculous”. The actor backed up his reasoning by saying black history shouldn’t be relegated to one month because black history is American history, and asking Wallace “Which month is white history month?”.
As the interview goes on, Wallace asks Freeman how we can end racism.
“Stop talking about it.” he says. “I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”
Morgan Freeman hasn’t been the only celebrity to vocalize their opinions about Black History Month. Actress Stacey Dash also sees Black History Month as unnecessary and calls it “a double standard.”
I don’t doubt that person who asked me what I thought about Morgan Freeman’s opinion genuinely wanted to know my response. But, I also felt that it was a roundabout way of asking me why Black History Month was necessary and not a form a “reverse-racism”. So, here is my response to not only to Morgan Freeman’s thoughts expressed in that interview, but also to those that don’t understand why we have this month to remember our history.
“You’re going to relegate my history to a month?”
I get it. Black history shouldn’t only be recognized during the month of February, it should be celebrated year-round. But, when it comes to examining the question of whether Black History Month is necessary, it’s extremely important to look at why it was created in the first place. Black History Month, which originally began as Negro History Week, was created by Carter G. Woodson after noticing the lack of black representation in history books and school teachings. Woodson’s intention wasn’t to diminish the accomplishments of black people and dwindle it down to one month. He created Negro History Week to ensure that black people would have an opportunity to remember their history despite the attempts of others to erase it. So yes, black history is a part of American history, but it wasn’t always treated as such, which is why Black History Month was created.
“Which month is white history month?”
White history month doesn’t exist because there was never a danger of it being forgotten or erased. It’s celebrated year-round and is what’s predominantly taught to us. The argument that there isn’t a white history month ignores the question of why Black History Month, and other months celebrating the accomplishments of marginalized people were created. These months aren’t created as an attempt to diminish the contributions white people have made to history, they’re created to recognize history of others that might otherwise be forgotten. So, before asking why there’s not a white history month, take the time to think about why months like Black History Month were created to begin with.
“Stop talking about racism”
Race is a social construct. Someone created labels like “white” and “black” and used them to create a social hierarchy. I can see how someone who understands this would believe that the simple solution to abolishing racism is to stop talking about race. The fact of the matter is, it’s not that simple. Although race is a social construct, it’s one that still exists, and is used to systematically oppress people of color today. Until this construct ceases to exist, conversations about social injustice will be necessary in order to make progress. Talking about race and racial inequality is hard, and for some people, uncomfortable. But, without confronting the injustices within our society how can we go about changing them?