I was engaging in #BlackHistoryMonth this year when I was mentioned on Twitter – and I knew what it was in reference to immediately: “Hey,” it began, “what’s with all these #BlackHistoryMonth tweets?” Here we go, I thought. They are going to ask the question. And, sure enough:
“What about a White History Month?”
After the requisite amount of eye-rolling – and after keeping from answering as I normally do, with a simple, “Hey. Every month is white history month.” – I had another idea.
It was an idea inspired by news that Portland State University in Oregon would be offering a course on “whiteness.” I started to consider that white people (like me) might benefit from a history of whiteness: that is, a history of white privilege and white supremacy – and how it has shaped the development of these United States from the very beginning.
In other words, what if we did have a “white history month,” just not in the way those words usually entail.
Given the fact that white skin and white privilege largely goes unnoticed/unrecognized by white people – but rarely by our neighbors of color in this country – I felt it would be uniquely within my call as pastor to a Christian community to take on this project. So #WhitenessHistoryMonth was born.
From the execution of a pastor in Charleston, SC, for planning a slave rebellion in 1822 to the mass murder in 2015 by a white supremacist – at the very church which the pastor planted – the history of whiteness is intricately woven together with the history of American Christianity.
Creating daily posts of the history of whiteness during the month of March was a spiritual discipline in a way I’ve never experienced before.
If we take Christian pastor and activist Jim Wallis seriously when he calls racism “America’s original sin,” then we as white people (especially white Christians) must confront this history head on.
I was lucky to have this project picked up right away by a phenomenal news and culture outlet, Blavity, and it garnered engagement on both Twitter and Facebook.
April 1 brought with it an unusual void. I was simultaneously relieved that the month was over (it was incredibly exhausting and mentally draining to do the amount of research and create the amount of content for #WhitenessHistoryMonth).
At the same time, I knew the project could go on for many more months. Years, even. And I knew my exhaustion and frustration at the history of my whiteness was nothing compared to the horrors that particular history wrought in the lives and communities of people of color in this country.
This project was an incomplete work. It did not dismantle white supremacy. It did not erase whiteness. It did not grant reparations for centuries of looting and terrorism.
But maybe it was a start; a step along the way – in the same way that following Jesus is more of a messy journey than a comfortable destination. We have to start somewhere.