White History Month

So I overheard a conversation at a local dive that peaked my interest.

Two old white men were calling Cam Newton a ball hog, an uppity black boy, and not a team player. I engaged in some casual conversation. It was obviously a mistake. As you can imagine, it didn’t goal well.

Highlights:

  • black people have forced themselves into their cultural depravity through the glorification of hip hop as an art form
  • when black people gain fame and resources they don’t know how to handle it, because a lack of family structure in black american lifestyles
  • black people feel entitled to things they didn’t work for, because of the recent rise in the black american narrative
  • and maybe if there was a white history month, black people would know about the good things white people have done for them
cam-newton
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton


One is funny because as a white dude in his late twenties, I find hip hop to be one of the few honest forms of art.

I am a millennial, so hip hop’s a part of my culture as a fan, consumer, and participate in music creation. I’ve been listening to hip hop since I was a few years old. Always loved the good parts of hip hop. Not all of it, but most of it.

A basic assessment: it empowers youths living below the poverty line; creates a creative musical process without needing huge resources and rehearsal space; and recreates the sounds of american life through samples sourcing most of modern music history. That is art. Communication. Narrative. Cultural references. A school of thought, culture, and art from which new participants of that culture can source, create, and feed upon.

Two. I grew up with two different stepfathers, a working mom, constant home drama, my father has been in prison my entire life, and if you asked me to define what a family is, I couldn’t begin to tell you what it’s about. An illogical dedication to people you’ve known the longest? No one ever said my credit score was important. No one taught me to put away money for rainy days. This is a part of white culture too. Poor broken families repeat the bad behavior of their parents and family whether they’re white, black, pink, or purple.

Three. Every race has a swollen ego. It’s a biological imperative to write yourself as the hero to your story. Every demographic in America has a storyline writing them as the ideal heirs to the current power structure, and that’s really the American dream. America offers you a dream, not a real solution to its structural classism, sexism, racism, and bigotry. So the confidence of a black man should not be threatening. The American experience is a dick measuring contest, even if you don’t have a dick.

Fourth. I know about Jazz, black poets and writers, blues musicians, and civil rights leaders because of black history month. I know about most of black history as a narrative of opposition to the aggressive white control and curation of economic mobility, culture, and music. I don’t see, hear, or read about much of what we’ve done besides backpedaling to compassion and empathy as society becomes more progressive. 

This is a supreme dressing up of this conversation. The actual happening was less articulate. More huff and puffs. More butthurt on their side. Thankfully, no racial slurs. It bums me out to repeat any of it, but it’s there, it happens, and everyone needs to talk about it.

So it goes. So we go.

If you’re white and you live in Alabama,  you hear about the concept of White History Month. It’s been discussed by idiots since I was a child. Most likely since Black History Month’s birth at Kent State in 1970.

Especially in February, the diatribes are plentiful. The idea is propagated by family members; strangers at country-ass bars; random encounters in the day where someone you are not talking to interjects and spits the phrase, Why can’t we have a White History Month though?

The answer seems obvious, but let me play devil’s advocate. What would white history month even look like? Like a Tide commercial, but with white Uncle Sam bleaching every moment in American history? White people have always had a stronghold on historical narrative. Even the subversive factual asides to common historical narrative, books like A People’s History of The United States are written largely by white people, even if they are children of immigrants.

But let’s not get into that. Let’s visualize a white history month curriculum. What is white history going to be about? Isn’t all of American public education form-fitted to nationalism, supporting white culture, and sanding down the harsh edges of historical fact? Is that not white enough? How much whiter do we need to get?

When I was in high school, 2001 to 2005, you scored well on tests when you recited talking points of history filtered through whatever coach was teaching your grade. There were three types of history teachers: meatheads; astute history fiends; and red-blooded, good American racists. In my experience, it was mostly meatheads and closet racists. The history fiends were out there. I wasn’t taught by them.

One subject in particular, The Civil War, focused on the ambiguity of the source of conflict and heavy emphasis on the divisive nature of equality and a racial dialogue. The North, much like civil rights protestors of the fifties and sixties, were forcing equality and change that would have came without all the violence; if the oppressed were more patient.

I was taught The Civil War was about state’s rights; a god given constitutional right afforded to each state to make decisions without the meddling of big government. The civil war was not an issue of slavery. Slavery was on it’s way out anyway. I was assured this by multiple history teachers. Two were coaches, and one was ex-military; now barking at sixteen year olds in the hallway for walking too briskly.

The war was solely about state’s rights. Without big government, no blood would’ve been shed and our country wouldn’t have been divided down the middle. Was this your classroom rhetoric?

beyonce-coldplay-superbowl-confirmed-2016-gty-ftr
Beyonce performing at the Super Bowl.

This is a class-A crock of shit, and it’s a pretty white way to look at the civil war. We spent a month and a half every year from ninth to eleventh grade on The Civil War. Does this count as a white history month? I guess not. Technically, it was a white way to spin one war. Not all of history.

So how can we spin all of history into white ownership?

If we had a similar claim to diaspora as Jewish people or people of west African descent, we could talk more about the reality of a need for WHITE HISTORY MONTH, but sadly, Anglo-Saxons have been more of the empirical motive for social movements righting disparities systemically forced on minorities. Maybe that’s the spin white people need on history?

We can’t change what our ancestors and family members did. They were assholes. Can we not talk about it as much? Maybe that’ll be what white history month is.

A white dude can sit at the front of the class and when someone asks a question, he’ll respond, “Why are you always bringing up old shit? That’s in the past. Racism is over. Obama?!”

I guess that wouldn’t work. There wouldn’t be a propagation of tailored information to keep our historical identities intact: which in turn informs our national identity; which in turn keeps our military going; and which in turn keeps the economy buzzing with military defense contracts. We need clearer lines of greatness and the cultural depth of white people I’m guessing.

I’m the wrong dude to sit on this idea till it hatches. I am white. I did grow up around racist adults. I did grow up in a small town in Alabama, where there was lots of racism. But the clear lines of the lesser evil versions of white pride I saw were centered around specific immigrant identities.

If you were Irish, you celebrated your heritage pretty often without much coverage in school. If you were Italian, you celebrated your Italian heritage without coverage in school. If you were holiness, you did your weirdo cult shit like your family before you while your mother taught you remedial math at seventeen. Etc.

I saw it from an early age. There are clear lines of intellectual reasoning behind Black History Month. There is none for White History Month. It is and has always been common sense. A group of people we stole and forced to fund our rise as a nation with free labor deserve a clear and present seat at the front of formal education. Simple.

Even in 2015, history is postured for solidarity in national identity. If you had a public education, you were covering that specific information for a reason. A knowledge of our history and the narratives we structure it around matters. What we did as a nation and what they helped build against their will is a part of American History. The things we’ve done to every mass migration we caused or dealt with includes violence, bigotry, murder, and systemic and cultural whitewashing. That is our history. We have to deal with it. That’s our responsibility to our history. We need flat, unbiased historical presentation if we want this nation to learn, grow, and be informed logical participates in this social experiment of democracy.

So, ya know, fuck WHITE HISTORY MONTH. I don’t care if you don’t get it. I’ll explain in conversation, but I’m not dragging you into empathetic social relevance. That’s a journey you have to make yourself. Much like the white people before you, the urge to not be an asshole has to come from within.

Moments like Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime performance shakes sheltered white america into talking about these issues. Everyone shows their true colors. Some hate because they don’t like strong black figures. Some hate cause they don’t like pop culture. Some support blindly because of white guilt. A few think critically about issues they’ve never considered because they don’t deal with these topics on a daily basis. This is why protest works as a mechanism for socio-political progress. If we’re talking, at least we’re acknowledging something.

Some white people want a white history month. There are lots of idiots in the world. Those two truths are codependent.

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About Charles Ray Hastings Jr.

Charles Ray Hastings Jr. is a musician, producer, and writer based in Huntsville, Alabama. The twenty-nine year old Alabama native has written, recorded, and produced over twenty-five solo and band albums and has had essays and short stories published through webzines, small press, and magazines like Before Sunrise Press, Two Dollar Radio, Flaneur, and That Lit Site.

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