The United States is known as the land of the free. We were established with the words “equality” and “the pursuit of happiness” in mind. Even though these strong words are a part of our doctrine, unfortunately, they do not apply to a large population of people. Today we celebrate the diversity that was not embraced during the times of our Founding Fathers. In the present we not only have black history month, but also Asian Pacific American heritage month, National Hispanic heritage month, and Native American heritage month. While engaging in the history of these cultures, I have come across others asking the question “Why don’t we have a White History Month or White Heritage Day?”
I consider the idea of a white history month a touchy subject. On the surface, denying one would be discrimination and exclusion. It is easy to want a month when other cultures are getting them. Some people might see it as a white supremacy kind of idea as well. To me there is not a need for a white history month. It has nothing to do with race or me being hostile towards white people, because I am not. If we had a white history month I feel as if it would be a kind of historical overkill.
The point of black history month as well as Asian, Hispanic, and Native American heritage month is to educate the population about underrepresented cultures. There are many untold stories and unheard voices from these people that need to be heard. In the public school system, very little is taught about these cultures. Yes, today is much better than the previous years, but there is still room for improvement.
When a child starts school they learn about the great people that had a huge impact on this country. These people include individuals like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and etc. I agree that children need to be taught about these very influential people, but it would be great if the children from more diverse ethnic backgrounds were taught about someone who they could relate to. Eventually, Martin Luther King, Jr. is mentioned. Then there are many presentations on black history month, but it is very repetitive. There are many people besides Martin Luther King, Jr. that aided in the civil rights movement, but they are not discussed. I haven’t been to elementary school in a very long time, but I remember learning nothing of influential Asian, Native American, or Hispanic people.
At the middle school level I would like to think that there would be more expansion on incorporating ethnicity into the history that is taught. I know from my middle school experience that they pretty much glossed over anything to do with slavery or the civil rights movement. We only talked about the “good” things or the “accomplishments.” This is a good thing, but I believe the school system has a certain obligation to prepare the children of today about the world. I’m not suggesting a showing of “Roots” during class, but an actual discussion of real events. You cannot create something new without learning from something old.
At the high school level there are still important subjects that involved ethnic people, but instead they decided to gear the advanced placement classes towards European history and British literature. These are wonderful classes, and I have taken them myself, but I feel as if I was not shown the world for what it was. I would have loved to have had an African American History course at my high school. Sadly, my community was one that was not real to embrace diversity and talk about the real issues of the United States. I am sure that this is the reason there is so much racial tension. We don’t understand each other, therefore, we are hostile towards each other.
Throughout the American education system, European history dominates. That is basically the first type of history we learn. College is the only time one gets to branch out and choose classes that they feel will benefit them. Those who were not fortunate enough to receive a college education are slighted and never truly learn what they need to. Because European history is so prevalent within the education system I believe there is no need for a white history month. Europeans have made vast contributions to society, but so have Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics and so on. If we regarded each other equally then maybe we wouldn’t have to stress these heritage months.
To sum it all up, white history month would really be a regurgitation of what we already know. Heritage months fill the void that the history books don’t. I don’t look at not recognizing a white history month as discrimination, but an opportunity for expansion of the history of ethnic people that has yet to be told.