In what could be a good idea, but sounds like a really bad one, Portland Community College (PCC) is making April “Whiteness History Month.” At first glance, this appears to be a white appropriation of Black History Month, which would get a lot of well deserved backlash from most sensible people because why do white people need a month when we get the other 11 months of the year, too?
PCC states that the project not a celebration of white people but rather is a “multidisciplinary, district-wide, educational project examining race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness, its origins, and heritage that seeks to inspire innovative and practical solutions to community issues and social problems that stem from racism.”
So we are going to study “whiteness” and where it came from? Interesting.
PCC posted this page to explain further the mission of this project and states:
“the literal history of whiteness — how and when and why what it means to be white was formulated — is always neglected. The construction of the white identity is a brilliant piece of social engineering. Its origins and heritage should be examined in order to add a critical layer of complexity to a national conversation sorely lacking in nuance”
Watch courtesy of KATU:
CNY Central reports that PCC Dean of Instruction Kurt Simonds says the goal is to improve race relations at the school. This sounds better. Simond’s further explained to CNY Central that the purpose of the project is:
“It’s an invitation to a dialogue about whiteness… the construction of whiteness, politically and socially, we want to diversify our faculty and staff. We think that’s appropriate, and if there are concerns about campus climate we want to know them and address them.”
The goals of the group are, for the most part, commendable. They include (per the PCC site)
- improve campus climate for students, faculty, staff, and administrators
- bolster student retention and success
- model a multidisciplinary approach that supports innovative teaching and learning college wide
- promote community partnerships
- examine and reflect on our academic skills, competence and personal beliefs and how these impact others
- apply racially conscious systems of analysis to examine and dismantle systems of inequality
- graduate students from PCC with local, national, and global sensibilities regarding the learning tasks of Critical Race Theory
No specific events have been organized yet although the PCC site is requesting idea submissions. The goal is to set up an 8 person “diversity council” to work on studying “whiteness.” Just for reference, PCC reports that it’s student population is 68% White and only 6% Black.
It is a known problem that many colleges across the country struggle to retain diverse staff and student populations. Continuing the dialogue, working with the community, administration and campus groups to encourage diversity in both staff and students is imperative.
The goals of the group are interesting and may lead to a more open dialogue on diversity on college campuses but calling it “Whiteness History Month” was a terrible idea.
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