Periodically a person will make headlines for suggesting that there should be a White History Month. After all, there’s a Black History Month, they argue. Why shouldn’t there be a White History Month? In February 2013 actress and comedienne Victoria Jackson, a member of the religious right, sparked controversy for launching such an argument.
“Just for the record, white men invented rockets, space travel, airplanes, the automobile, the English language, the U.S.A., most medical advances, electricity, television, telescope, microscope, Ivy League Universities, the computer, the Internet, and on and on,” Jackson wrote in a blog post that she has since deleted. “I think white men should be praised and respected. White Christian Conservative Men especially, should be loved and adored. They were the backbone and originators of the greatest nation on earth. We need more of them now.”
What Jackson and others with similar viewpoints miss is that cultural heritage months were created largely to spotlight the achievements of ethnic groups whose contributions were typically given the short shrift in history books. The white community never rallied for White History Month in the past because the virtues and achievements of white Americans have been extolled since the United States became a nation. Jackson and her ilk also overlook the fact that white history months—that’s right, months, already exist.
White History Months Already Exist
While there’s no official White History Month, the 10th month of the year would certainly be an appropriate time to hold such an observance. That’s because a number of cultural heritage months related to Euro-Americans fall in the month of October. Italian American Heritage Month, Polish American Heritage Month and German American Heritage Month are each observed in the 10th month of the year. Moreover, March is Irish-American Heritage Month and May is Jewish American Heritage Month. There goes the idea that Black History Month is a way for African Americans to receive special treatment. Clearly, the abundance of cultural heritage months held to honor Euro-American groups counters this notion. It’s also worth pointing out that a number of holidays observed in honor of Euro-Americans as well—from German-American Day to St. Patrick’s Day, Pulaski Day and Columbus Day.
Why No White History Month Exists
While there are several cultural heritage months in the U.S. that pay homage to Euro-Americans, there is no generic White History Month. A major reason that Black History Month, originally Negro History Week, exists is because the peculiar institution of slavery disconnected African Americans from their cultural origins. While whites have the privilege of knowing that they are part-Greek, part-Italian, etc., the average black person has no idea from which country his ancestors came. Black History Month, in part, pays tribute to the hybrid culture Africans created once in the United States. Perhaps if African Americans did know their cultural origins, there would be a slew of cultural heritage months observed in honor of, say, Chadian-Americans or Ghanaian-Americans or Sierra Leonean-Americans.
Black History Month: A Multicultural Effort
When Negro History Week launched in 1926, both blacks and whites celebrated its formation. Negro History Week, which expanded into Black History Month in 1976, was always a multicultural effort. It was never meant to exclude non-blacks but designed as a time in which Americans of all races celebrated the achievements and contributions of African Americans. Moreover, Carter G. Woodson, the historian who created Negro History Week, hoped that one day there would be no such observance. He dreamt of a time when black history was simply U.S. history. In short, Black History Month came to be as a result of exclusion. Woodson felt that the achievements of blacks were covered inaccurately or not at all in history books. Those who want a White History Month to come into being can’t argue that they want such a month for the same reasons.