Wednesday, February 21, 2007

White History 101

Read this excellent article in The Nation by Gary Younge. Here is an excerpt to wet your appetite:

So much of Black History Month takes place in the passive voice. Leaders "get assassinated," patrons "are refused" service, women "are ejected" from public transport. So the objects of racism are many but the subjects few. In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility.

. . . Logic suggests, you cannot have black history without white history. Of course, the trouble is not that we do not hear enough about white history but that what masquerades as history is more akin to mythology. The contradictions of how a "free world" could be founded on genocide, or how the battle for democracy during the Second World War could coincide with Japanese internment and segregation, for example, are rarely addressed.

"I am born with a past and to try to cut myself off from that past is to deform my present relationships," writes Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue. "The possession of an historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide."

The purpose here is not to explore individual guilt--there are therapists for that--but collective responsibility.

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