An Oregon college is igniting debate for a “Whiteness History Month” – an event scheduled at Portland Community College that is meant to explore concepts like white privilege through an academic lens. But conservative blogs and social media have taken the title out of context, and portrayed the so-called celebration, which is scheduled a few months after February’s Black History Month, as nothing more than an effort to “shame” and “trash” white Americans. One site dubbed it “Hate Whitey Month.”
Reports Oregon Live on Jan. 21: “Portland Community College administrators were caught off guard Monday when bloggers and social media sites started buzzing with word that Oregon’s largest college was planning a series of events this spring to perpetuate ‘whiteness shaming.’ Not the kind of headlines you typically want on MLK Day. Not accurate either, say school officials.”
The full title is “Whiteness History Month: Context, Consequences, and Change,” and according to the school’s website, the undertaking is described as a “multidisciplinary, district-wide, educational project examining race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness, its origins and heritage.” Scheduled for April, the goal of the project is to “inspire innovative and practical solutions to community issues and social problems that stem from racism.”
Kate Chester, a Portland Community College (PCC) spokeswoman, said they were caught off guard by the rampant misunderstanding of a project that does not even have a set agenda yet. “We really don’t know what set this off yesterday,” Chester said.
“The intent was to look at whiteness as a social construct,” she added. “It’s complex, and people can latch onto ‘white’ instead of ‘whiteness,’ and it can become personalized and polarized. So it’s complex. It’s controversial. It’s a sensitive issue.”
Portland Community College has a 68 percent white student body.
“We view this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America’s college campuses,” Sylvia Kelley, interim president of Portland Community College, said in a statement. “As Oregon’s largest post-secondary educational institution, it is our responsibility to help continue this courageous conversation. We understand that this will be challenging and uncomfortable work, yet we have made a commitment in our strategic plan to take intentional action to advance diversity, equity and inclusion – for all we serve.”
What are your thoughts on the college hosting a “Whiteness History Month?”