The idea of a "White History Month" gets suggested by clueless and/or casually racist people on occasion, and it usually does not end well. But an Oregon community college has something different in mind.
Portland Community College has announced a "Whiteness History Month" to critically examine the ideas and origin behind white identity to coincide with the month of April.
While the name may spark comparisons to observances originally created to highlight often-ignored minority historical events, like Black History Month, the school has gone to great pains to point out its event is not a celebration. The school's website describes Whiteness History Month as an attempt to critique and analyze the power of whiteness in society, education, and on the campus itself.
Whiteness History Month Project, unlike heritage months, is not a celebratory endeavor, it is an effort to change our campus climate. The Project seeks to challenge the master narrative of race and racism through an exploration of the social construction of whiteness. Challenging the master narrative of traditional curriculum is a strategy within higher education that promotes multicultural education and equity.
The event is still in its planning stages, with the planning committee taking applications from groups and individuals on campus to host lectures, trips, and projects around the theme.
There was swift backlash against the event online after conservative media began reporting it, both from people who found the idea offensive and those who just seemed to struggle with understanding the concept.
In response to the criticism, interim PCC President Sylvia Kelley wrote a letter to the campus community defending the upcoming event.
"We view this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America’s college campuses. As Oregon’s largest post-secondary educational institution, it is our responsibility to help continue this courageous conversation," she wrote.
Portland Community College enrolled 89,903 students during the 2013–14 school year, 68% of whom were caucasian, according to its website. Will those 60,000 students be able to survive what Fox News has lovably called "white-shaming"? Tune in this April to find out.