Portland Community College to launch Whiteness History Month – USA TODAY
A new program being held this April at Portland Community College, Whiteness History Month, has garnered lots of unwanted negative attention.
Which is why the school’s interim president, Sylvia Kelley, posted a statement on Wednesday in an attempt to calm the waters.
Scheduled for April, Whiteness History Month: Context, Consequences and Change is “not a celebratory endeavor,” according to its description on the school’s website. “The Project seeks to challenge the master narrative of race and racism through an exploration of the social construction of whiteness. Challenging the master narrative of traditional curriculum is a strategy within higher education that promotes multicultural education and equity.”
Rightly or wrongly, lots of people went to town on that one.
The loudest critics were those in the conservative press. Rightwingnews.com said the purpose “is not to acknowledge the disproportionate level of accomplishment among whites but to shame us for it.” The American Conservative labeled it “white hatey month.”
Enter Kelley, whose statement reads in part:
“‘Whiteness’ is an academic term commonly used to describe the social and political construction of white identity related to beliefs, cultural norms and privileges. The concept of ‘whiteness’ has been referenced by a broad range of scholars and has been a focus of research, teaching and scholarship since the early 1990s.
“We view this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America’s college campuses. 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.”
Somehow we doubt that that’s the end of that.
In the meantime, the committee is currently accepting proposals on its website from students and faculty for presentations, lectures, panel discussions, film and music analyses, workshops, plays, art and other forms of expression.
Caleb Diehl is a student at Lewis & Clark College and a USA TODAY College breaking news correspondent.
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