When I was growing up, my South Carolina school district always had a "spirit week" at some point during February. You'd wear tacky clothes one day, school colors one day, maybe one day was hat day - pretty innocent stuff. I half-heartedly participated in this, usually.
I just remembered this story after I saw Grandad Freeman's post a few minutes ago ("White History Month Presents: Miley Cyrus"). My junior year, the student council made one of the days "Black Out Day" in honor of Black History Month. OH THE RAGE THIS CAUSED.
A bunch of the loud conservative white guys in my class decided to have a crusade for everyone to wear white on "Black Out Day." A lot of these guys were my friends (I identified as a conservative at that point in my life - I was trying to be a cool girl). They started a school-wide movement, and sure enough, on that day, tons and tons of students showed up wearing only white.
I did not participate, but I laughed along with them. How clever they were! Take that, reverse racism! Now all those white guys will get into college!
I'm aggravated that I didn't think harder about this. I'm mortified I laughed it off, and didn't give it a second thought. I'm relieved I somehow knew better than to participate. It made me uncomfortable enough not to wear the white - but I don't think I could have articulated why.
You know, the statement that Black History Month doesn't deserve recognition because White People want it for themselves.
I am sorry that I stayed quiet.
I know what you're thinking; however, these weren't those rednecks flying the Confederate Flag on the back of their pickup trucks, which is probably what you might picture, griping about putting god back in schools or some shit. These were wealthy, smart, not-overtly-racist guys who will go far in life. These were the guys our mothers wanted us to marry. (These are also the guys who trigger my semi-annual rants about libertarian mansplaining.)
I have no idea how any of the people of color in our school may have perceived this. I had black friends (ha!) but I didn't ask them about this, and they didn't tell me what they thought. Can't imagine why.
It's interesting this notion that because there is a Black History Month, something was taken from us white people. I think everyone can agree that's not true. Even if they believed racism is over (I'm sure they did), there was no denying slavery or the other evils leading up to the Civil Rights movement, at the very least. Why could they not let February go?
If I could revisit that moment, I'd ask my white friends, "Why do you feel the need to retaliate? Why the divisive statement, other than just to claim something as yours and move on?" For the love of god, just back off.
What the fuck, guys?
ETA: If I articulated this in a whitesplainy way, or if it is in any way offensive, please call me out.