“It is impossible to understand politics, the Black community’s relationship with the police, or why we even need to say ‘Black lives matter’ if we don’t learn the history of this country. So, yes, let’s have a White History Month! Let’s have 12 of them!”
— Amber Ruffin, comedian and TV host
Each February, we celebrate what is called Black History Month. It is a good thing, in principle, for Black and white people in America. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and struggles of Black Americans in a society that has been hostile to Black existence. It can provide necessary information for white Americans who often are ignorant of the Black saga in America. For Black Americans who are “woke,” every month is Black History Month.
She makes some interesting points that need reflection. Ms. Ruffin asserts that white people know truly little about white American history. The history taught in most public and parochial schools has been so whitewashed with a false veneer that it is no wonder why many Americans do not know the historical truth.
For instance, we know the glorified stories of George Washington cutting down cherry trees and crossing the Delaware and that Lincoln freed the slaves. However, few Americans know that Washington had 18 slaves by the time he was 18 years old, and that Abraham Lincoln did not want to emancipate the slaves and certainly was not an advocate of racial equality.
For example, history taught in most schools does not articulate that the real motivation behind the Second Amendment was not to protect Americans from foreign enemies, but rather to ensure that white slaveowners had the weaponry to keep their slaves under control. How about the fact that police originated from the “slave catchers,” which later became the Ku Klux Klan.
While I do not advocate a “White History Month,” I do think that white America needs a historical reeducation. Dr. John H. McClendon, my friend and professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, always stresses that if one does not appreciate the material conditions that surround a historical event, one will never understand the actions that have taken place nor the motives of the actors.
Nate Turner, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. did not rise in a bubble. The material conditions that vaulted them into action was the long bloody history of racial injustice perpetuated by white America.
I was curious why the top six Southern Baptist seminaries in the United States have removed critical race theory from their curriculums. It then dawned on me that if critical race theory is taught, it will make white denominations, and their churches acknowledge their complicity and cooperation in the barbarism of slavery, segregation, lynching and racial injustice. Clearly some white Christians refuse to embrace Jesus’ statement, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
When people believe a lie, we get the madness. The madness will take numerous forms, like the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others, as well as Jan. 6’s mob and violence at the Capitol. If we are to move beyond the madness and become a more perfect union, then we need a proper historical reeducation. May Black History Month be the first step toward true education and unity.
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