Why Black History for White People?

klan member protected by black policeBlack History for White People is an anti-racism workshop dedicated to ending white supremacy. You might think white supremacy is boring.

It doesn’t mean much to most folks.

You might think of Hitler or the KKK and that’s pretty much it.

If you’re white, that is.

For most white folks, white supremacy is a buzzword that some activists use when they’re angry about racism. White people know black folks had it bad a long time ago, but since slavery we had Aaron and Oprah and Obama – a black president, so we’re good now. Didn’t Kaepernick get that Nike commercial after all? Most white people seem to think we’re in a post racial country and the laws should be amended to reflect that; that the fight for social justice is over.

Well, no.

Hide in plain sight

What does it mean that white supremacy hides in plain sight?

It is completely obvious, but so obvious we don’t recognize we’re participating in it. Like a fish not knowing what water is.

An example will help explain.

A friend Chris was talking about how his friends in the southern state he grew up in would tell him he talked and acted “white”. This was because he has an advanced degree, speaks without an accent and wears clothes from the J Crew catalogue.

No one, including Chris, thought much about this until something clicked. Chris’ friends were telling him was that ‘white’ meant intelligent. They were saying that white meant professional. That white means folks treat you with respect.

This is how white supremacy hides in plain sight.

A black man and a white woman driving in a clean car. They're smiling, clean, and well dressed. What's wrong with this picture?
What do your biases hide from you every day?

Black Americans aren’t expected to be smart, professional, or deserving of respect, according to Chris’ friends. Despite the good-natured taunting, with a smile Chris’ friends were reproducing racist assumptions about black folks. Chris and his cohort had casually integrated racism into their daily lives.

There is a happy ending. Chris stopped his friends the next time they made the joke that he was “so white”. He told them what they were doing, why it was wrong, and they listened. They no longer call him white and they know why it is wrong to.

We need Black History for White People because the potential to unify around the principle of justice is real. We see this potential in the example of Chris’ friends and how they responded when confronted with the truth about their behavior. Like Chris, BH4WP seeks to illustrate how the legacy of slavery pollutes our everyday life in the US.

Anti-racist White People?

One reason this campaign targets white people is that white people lack any real education about the history of black Americans.

This is by design.

We maintain white supremacy by hiding its brutality; they aren’t teaching  black history in elementary school classes. As a result, most white folks are unaware of the unjust conditions faced by black Americans. Most are unaware of how those conditions are a direct result of slavery. One of the greatest accomplishments of the civil rights movement was to expose white supremacy’s brutality.

But, for most white people, the civil rights movement failed to draw the connection between water cannons and child poverty.

The connection between tear gas and infant mortality.

BH4WP shows how the racial wealth gap and mass incarceration are the result of generations of government policy.

firemen assault civil rights protestors with a high pressure hose in Birminham
Who is holding the hose? Who are their children and where are they now?

The numbers don’t lie. White Americans control the wealth and the power of this country. The only force that has ever provided any relief to the plight of black Americans is the federal government. BH4WP will show that free market solutions will never provide the required solutions. We need to get white Americans to accept the justice claim of American descendents of slavery. The American government sanctioned racism in America throughout its entire history. An institutional harm requires an institutional solution.

Like Chris’ friends who changed their behavior once they were made aware of the injustice they were perpetuating, we will elevate the awareness of the white people who attend our workshops and encourage them to spread a desire for justice.

Making our country whole

As long as we make excuses for brutality we’re preventing our ability to be kind. As long as we make excuses for harm we prevent our ability to heal. Every day this country refuses to address the suffering endured by generations of black Americans is another day wasted that could be used to build the post-racial society we all want.

This is the goal of Black History for White People; to help us see the way we’re living submerged in racism. That we’re the fish in the fish bowl that doesn’t know what water is. We’re upholding white supremacy when we fail to recognize how it infects us every day of our lives. Together we can end the racial wealth gap, end mass incarceration, and make our country whole.

a black woman stands alone and harmless as she is approached by heavily armored soldiers
What are we afraid of giving up by seeing the humanity in others?

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