A project at a Portland community college called “Whiteness History Month” is attempting to deconstruct the concept of white privilege—and in doing so might have accidentally become a perfect example of white privilege in action.
The purpose of the controversial project launched at Portland Community College, located in Oregon, is to examine the effects of white privilege in the American socio-political sphere, despite the fact that it sound like it’s actually a month-long kegger in the basement of a KKK party house. Yes, Virginia, the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions (and racial inequality).
Here’s the objective of Whiteness History Month, according to the project’s page:
“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.”
According to a video made by the creators behind the project, the term is “a word used to describe the process that created racists and perpetuates racism.”
In short: the intention behind it is meant to encourage dialogue about the annals of white privilege, which is good. The name? Not so much.
Local news station KATU interviewed PCC students about the variety of “lectures, discussions, assessments and other activities” related to the overarching theme. As per the individuals quoted in the article, the response to the project runs parallel to the idea that the spirit behind it is on point, the name not so much.
“I think what they were trying to do was a good idea,” PCC freshman William Haley told KATU.”There’s a lot of people out there who, rightly, have to acknowledge the fact that white people, white males like me who’ve come from an upper-middle class family are gonna not have had to deal with certain things.”
Haley then gave an example—as a white person, he is less likely to be randomly pulled over while driving that someone who is POC.
As for the name, Haley then more or less agreed with the criticism attributed to the project’s name. “I just think that they did a bad job sending out a message and they could’ve done better,” he added.
Other students—many of them POC—have not taken so kindly to the project’s general mislabel.
“You don’t want to call it Whiteness History Month,” said POC student Abdul Ahmed about the “heritage month.”
“You just make it seem like it’s all about white people,” he then asserted.
Of course, members of the college administration decided to skew their commentary towards the precious, delicate feelings of white students, who as we all know are very fragile snowflakes.
“This is not about shaming white people. It’s really about providing a better understanding for all of us,” said Craig Kolins, PCC’s dean of instruction.”This is an opportunity to dialogue about some of the tensions ... created because of the societal pressure of whiteness.”
Yes, “shaming white people” is the thing we have to worry about most here, because racial hierarchies and centuries-long systematic oppression perpetuated by a white majority isn’t a thing. So hard to be Caucasian out there, amirite?
Perhaps Ahmed put it best:
“I hope there’s something good that comes out of it. I don’t know if it will. I don’t know if it will not, but people should learn that there’s people out there who are gonna smile but behind your back something’s gonna happen.”
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via YouTube.