We Need a White History Month Too

Whatever happened to James Blake? He is probably the most famous bus driver ever.

Blake was the Montgomery driver who told a row of black passengers: "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." Rosa Parks was one of those passengers. She made her stand and kept her seat. The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, black history anyway. We know how African-Americans boycotted city transit for thirteen months until the segregationists caved in. We know how the boycott launched the career of a previously unheard-of preacher called Martin Luther King Jr. and made Parks an icon. In schools, bookstores and on TV there is an awful lot of talk about them in February. But nary a word about Mr. Blake.

There is no month when we get to talk about Blake; no opportunity to learn the fates of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who murdered Emmett Till; no time set aside to keep track of Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, whose false accusations of rape against the Scottsboro Boys sent five innocent young black men to jail.

Wouldn't everyone--particularly white people--benefit from becoming better acquainted with these histories? What we need, in short, is a White History Month.

Now, Paul will probably say that this is an example of Nadir focusing only on the evil that white folks do. That's not true at all. Gary Younge's article for The Nation advocates a more open and honest telling of history. We should stop teaching mythology and start teaching the truth.

White Americans must learn to reconcile that the United States was founded on genocide and slavery just as Paul insists Blacks must come to grips with our African ancestors selling us into bondage. To obtain any real benefit from the study of the past, we must study what really happened - not just the good. We must hold the truth up to the light, understanding that it isn't always pretty, but knowing that if we turn our faces from what really happened, we lose valuable insight into what made us who we are.

1 comment:

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I fully support this. Indeed, to the extent that any honkies are left who don't know all the bad things that their ancestors did, they really should pay better attention to all the public school and university history books and lectures, because it's spread high and wide throughout; is it possible to fit in any more discussions of the barbarity of white folks in these books and lectures?

Prior to the 1960s, of course, US K-college history books were indeed rah-rahs to all the great achievements of honkies, with little or no attention paid to their bestiality and backwardness, and little or no attention at all to non-whites except as set pieces for the accomplishments of crackers. But I think that this criticism long ago lost its validity, and even the opposite has come to pass: US school history lessons now teach students that white folks are the worst thing to ever happen to the earth, if not the entire universe.

What I have concluded though, about the existance of humans in the universe (so far only on earth) is that with regard to "race" they are all equally evil and divine. There were honkies such as those that falsely accused the Scottsboro boys and wrongly prosecuted and convicted them, and there were those who devoted their lives to eventually freeing them. There were black folks in Africa who enslaved other blacks (in the western sub-Sahara), and even who enslaved whites (on the Mediterranean coast), and those who fought for freedom not only for themselves and others in their lot, but even for others as well.

Intellectually of course there were great expansive periods where most or even all honkies lived without civilization, in the grip of barbarism imposed upon by each other and even by non-white invaders, as well as under the merciless tyranny of nature. And even non-white folks have experienced periods such as this.

It seems to me that students do not learn this in US schools. Where they receive critical instruction about the developments and accomplishments of honkey civilization and even non-civilization, they receive only uncritical worship of non-cracker civillizations and peoples.

True, they do not learn the biographies of some of the smaller players amoungst the white tyrants (the Scottsboro accuser and prosecutor, Emmitt Tills' killer, etc.), and these topics do fascinate me, I wonder where these lessons would fit in the history curricula, stuffed as it is with important lessons about how Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but with no discussion of how his constitution enabled the birth of a novelty in all of human civilization, even absent from those on the African continent: freedom and equal rights for all, regardless of "race", gender, or religion. Do these children learn, for example, of the angry objections by the black leaders of black African nations to Brtain's abolition of slavery and the international slave trade (devoting its navy to unilaterally imposing this declaration)? Those abolitionist honkies presumably include your ancestors, Nadir, as to the black slavers.