As February opens its door, it is once again the moment to celebrate Black History Month. Officially recognized as such since 1976, the second and literally shortest month of the year, if I might add, is the moment when we recognize the history and contribution of Black people in North America. Mostly celebrated in the United States, it, therefore, highlights the accomplishment of African Americans and their very unique culture. However, every year, I hear the same comment: "Why isn’t there a White History Month?’’ This article, as you can tell by the title, will explain just that. No, we don’t need White history month, and here’s why.
Saying we don’t need it seems a little shady, but it is simply true. We don’t need it the same way that we don't need straight pride. We don’t for the simple reason that the contribution and accomplishments of White people are shoved in our faces 365 days of the year, on television, in movies, and in school when learning about history. As for ‘‘White culture,’’ and I will dig more into that later, is constantly being celebrated, along with literally everything ‘‘White.’’ The reason why we don’t hear about Black inventors, scientists, and artists isn’t because they don’t exist, it is because people judge that they do not deserve to be heard of. The Black narrative represents one or two sentences in history books and nothing more. Slavery happened, then it ended. Segregation happened, and it ended. And now everything is fine, and racism is over, THE END. Our stories, our voices, and our lives are silenced and kicked under the rug because people believe there are better and more important stories to be told: White stories.
Growing up in Canada, more specifically in the French-speaking province of Québec, I can tell you that there is a big problem in education. The history class program is extremely repetitive. From what is the equivalent of 3rd grade elementary, all the way up to sophomore year of high school, students are taught the same thing over and over every year: the story of the province, which is, shocker, very White, and the history of the country which is, once again, Caucasian all over. Native Americans are mentioned but of course, the genocide of this population is treated very apologetically, making the colonizers look like innocent puppies who never meant to do anything wrong. But most importantly, it completely erases the struggle of Native Americans in Canada today, making it seem as if everything is perfectly fine now. As a Canadian student, I can swear to you that I only heard about ‘‘Black’’ history in my last year of high school, and it was literally one sentence. We don’t talk about the contribution of Black Canadians to the country and we don’t hear about the bad stuff, which is, at the end of the day, also history. We don’t talk about segregation in Canada because that would mean recognizing that White Canadians took part in racism. We don’t acknowledge that the last ‘‘Blacks only’’ school in the country was opened until the mid-80s. We don't because, it would mean breaking this image that Canada has cultivated, this image of perfection, peace, love, and innocence toward its people. No country is perfect, mostly not Canada, and same thing for the US. Black narratives are purposefully shut down in schools and in every other sphere of our lives. For that reason, we need Black History Month.
In terms of the culture, it is pretty similar. In the United States, African-American culture needs to be celebrated because it is often shamed. Yes, it is present in the media, but we need to not get mixed up here. I hope all of you understand that Drake being on the radio doesn’t mean racism is over and that everybody is equal. Black Americans had to fight for their right to produce music, to act and really just to exist. Channels like BET, which is no longer Black-owned for a matter of fact, and Black sitcoms help but they are not enough to really bring our stories to the front in a world where we are always in the back of the bus, literally and figuratively. Black culture is unique because it is a mix of so many things.
During slavery, Black people were brought from Africa to America. They came from different places on the continent and had cultures of their own, different stories, languages, songs, dances, etc. However, once they arrived, they couldn’t practice their culture in the same way they used to. Kids were often separated from their parents and were raised by other slaves who came from other parts of Africa. This situation then forced them to live and work with people culturally different from them and they then created a totally new culture with bits and pieces of everyone’s culture. People were sharing their songs with each other, creating new ones and then these songs were sung by their children who didn’t even know the original ones. Same thing for the stories and the dances. Slowly, these slaves who were stripped from everything they had, including their own freedom, were creating something new with all of this pain and misery. This ‘‘melting pot,’’ passed down from one generation to the next, would then become soul, jazz, rap, and rock. Black history became Black culture, and Black culture is nothing without Black history.
Now with that being said, here’s why White history month isn’t a thing. As mentioned prior, we don’t need it because it is already everywhere, but we also can’t have it because (shade but no shade), it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as ‘‘White culture.’’ The term ‘‘white’’ itself is pretty problematic, simply because its meaning has changed so much over time. Does it refer to anyone who has pale skin? Cause if so, a lot of Latinx people have pale skin, does it mean they're White? Does it mean that once you get a little tan at the end of July you are no longer White? Obviously, the answer is no to both questions. Then what does it mean? What does it take to be really White? Do you need to be from European decent? Because if so, Irish people and Italians should be considered White, however, they weren’t seen as such for a certain time in history.
For a long time, being White or Caucasian in America just meant that you weren’t Black or Brown, and that you would side with oppressors of people of colour. Irish immigrants were oppressed when they arrived in the United States, however, they were never treated the same way African-Americans were, and they were actually given more rights and prestige if they sided with White American slave owners. They had freedom and they had the right to be, two things Black slaves were not granted and that makes the whole difference. European immigrants had the privilege of keeping their culture, whether it was French, Irish, Italian or German, African-American didn't. They could stick with one another and practice their culture the same way they did back in their respective countries, which is why there is a difference between what we call Italian-American culture and Irish-American culture, for example. The reason why these European cultures are different today and have been throughout history on the American continent is because they were free. And the reason why the ‘‘Black melting pot’’ referred to earlier is what it is, is becauseBlack people weren’t. White culture doesn’t exist because ‘‘White’’ is too broad of a term, it includes too many people who have always been distinct AND free.
Considering this, does it mean you cannot be proud of your European heritage? Absolutely not! You are of Irish descent and want to celebrate it? Go ahead, nobody is stopping you! But that doesn’t have anything to do with being White, or Caucasian per se, first because as I mentioned, Irish people weren’t considered White for a while, but also because of the simple meaning of White pride. I won’t get into details about why ‘‘White pride’’ is a problematic concept but open a history book and read about all the great things that were a result of it. Spoiler alert, it’s a lot of torture, rape, and genocides.
But listen, I am not stupid. I know, and we all know that the ‘‘why isn’t there a White history month’’ comment doesn’t come from a genuine interest in celebrating European cultures. It comes from a discomfort towards Black pride. People have a hard time seeing Black people enjoy things and that is just the sad truth. Black Panther wasn’t out for half a second that everybody was complaining about why there needs to be an all *blank* this movie and an all *blank* that TV show, arguing about why a sci-fi movie with an all Black cast is unnecessary.
The other reason why I know that people complaining about the existence of Black history month comes from jealousy and, let’s face it, racism, is because those same people don’t even do research! You want White history month because you are so proud of being Italian and you want to celebrate it? Then how come you don’t know that national Italian-American heritage month is in October and my Black ass does? That is because you don’t care about it as much as you pretend you do. Sorry, not sorry!
To close this article, I truly want to say that Black history month is a necessity. What is considered to be African-American culture today comes from a unique place. It grew like a forbidden fruit, without sun, water nor love. It flourished despite the hate and the violence. They tried to cut down the tree, they destroyed the roots and spat on its flowers, but it kept growing. It was shamed and stolen, seen as satanic and wrong. Until people realized it could bring fame, nobody wanted to hear it. Until people realized it could be stylish, nobody wanted to wear it. Until people realized it could make money, nobody wanted to see it. And now we have rich and famous White rappers with dreadlocks. February is literally the shortest month of the year, yet people still complain about Black history month. Give us a break. Let us enjoy our history and our people. Because if we don’t, nobody else ever will.
Cause some of y’all are lazy and won’t do the work:
March: Irish-American Heritage Month & Greek- American Heritage month
April: Sikh Heritage Month (Canada)
May: Asian Pacific American Heritage & Jewish American Heritage Month
July: French-American Heritage Month
September: National Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) & German American Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)
October: National Italian American Heritage Month, Filipino American Heritage Month, Muslim Heritage Month (Canada), Polish American Heritage Month
November: National American Indian Heritage Month