This month has been Black History Month, and I've been spending the whole month trying to figure out what to write about it. I know exactly what I want to say, but the delivery hasn't come easily.
I love Black History Month. I think it's so inspiring and educational. I like that it's not shallow. It's a time of mourning and lamenting, celebrating accomplishments, and remembering so we can learn. Unfortunately, I've heard the age old sentence that makes me cringe and automatically makes my left eyebrow raise sassily and gives me really bad RBF:
"Why do Black people get a history month? Why isn't there a white history month?".
As a little white kid, I know I don't have a big voice in the conversation of Black Lives Matter and discussions involving people of color. I don't know what it's like to be a person of color. I'm not black; I never have and never will know what it's like to be black. I'm a white girl. I've never been afraid to get pulled over because of the color of my skin. No one has ever made a racial slur towards me. No one has ever really made fun of my accent. No one has ever put me in a situation where I'm afraid for my safety or well-being because of the way I look. While I can't speak into what that's like, I do have a voice. I'm very privileged. Having privilege not only gives you a voice in these conversations, it gives you a responsibility to speak up to others whom only you can reach because of your privilege. I can't and shouldn't tell a black person how to feel or act or speak in racial conversations, it's not my role, it's not my place, and I will never truly understand their perspectives as they do. But as a privileged person with a voice, I can speak up for them, and that's where I'm at right now, writing this blog post.
Okay, sidebar background explanation, check.
"Why isn't there a white history month?"
It really is a very silly question. White history month is every month. We get work off and close the post office for holidays commemorating the accomplishments and celebrations of important, white figures in our history all year round. Our country has had 42 white presidents.
It has only been 53 years since segregation has been illegal.
I'll be honest, I struggled with a lot of topics surrounding racial reconciliation for a long time. I didn't understand what "the big deal" was. I didn't understand Black History month. I felt as a white person, my being privileged wasn't my fault. I felt like it wasn't my fault that African Americans had been treated so badly for so long in American History. I didn't get why commemorating African American people was so important. But after many many conversations and a lot of listening and praying, God shook my heart up about this. I was totally right, it's not my fault that I'm privileged. I didn't chose to be white, but I am. It's not my fault that Black People have been so, so mistreated in American history. It's not my fault that other people are racist. But the ball that's in my court is that although I can't control the past or my skin color or other people's hearts or racism, I am responsible for listening. As a Christian, I'm called by God to speak up for the hurting and marginalized. I'm commanded to love and have compassion. I'm called to be who God has called me to be weather or not I understand or agree. That means it's my duty as a follower of Christ to ask African Americans their thoughts and feelings and their reasons why, instead of telling them how to feel or think.
The reason there isn't a white history month is because 53 years ago, there wasn't a law put in place to stop the segregation and mistreatment and inequality of white people. 60 years ago, white people weren't legally obligated to use a different drinking fountain or sidewalk or seat on a bus than white people. 152 years ago, white people weren't the ones set free from two and a half centuries of slavery.
Black History Month isn't a time to have tension and division. It's a time to lament. It's a time to listen. It's a time to celebrate amazing people in American History who overcame gigantic obstacles to do incredible things. These are the people who helped develop the underground railroad, who stood up for justice, who took a stand against segregation. People who marched and protested and risked their lives so that one day, their children or grandchildren, or great, great grandchildren would be able to live in a world where they were treated as equals, where the color of their skin would not separate them from being treated as valuable human beings. They are people who were the firsts. People who took big risks and worked hard at their goals. That's a beautiful thing that needs to be celebrated.
The month is almost over, but that doesn't mean you should stop pursuing this. Take time to pray about this. Ask God to help you understand or give you the courage to ask. Listen and have open arms of love and compassion. Stand up for the marginalized and be their voice. Be Jesus to a world that is stingy on love and justice.