“White privilete is your history being part of the core curriculum and mine being taught as an elective or only briefly discussed during Black History Month.”
Eton Thomas (author, activist, professional athlete)
Black History Month. We should not need it. But we do. Is it a conundrum? Yes. “Black History” is not separate from American History. Yet, without a conscious and concrete effort to make visible all the myriad ways that Black History is American History, would those histories be told and be told honestly? What happens when Black History is told by white America?
White Americans like their past re-imagined, glorified, and made nostalgic. The cultural and historical references and images are made palatable. African-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, Middle and East Indian-Americans, and all other non-white Americans are expected to agree and relate.
A perfect example of a re-written and re-imagined history can be found in Lexington, Kentucky at the Waveland State Historic Site. Once an Antebellum Plantation, today a “Living History” museum.
“This beautiful Greek Revival home was built in 1847 by Joseph Bryan, a grandnephew of Daniel Boone. Tours of Waveland focus on the Bryan family and life on a 19th-century Kentucky plantation. Waveland exemplifes plantation life in Kentucky in the 19th- century; from the acres of grain and hemp waving in the breeze (hence the Waveland name), to the raising and racing of blooded trotting horses.”
Living history events include butter churning, doll making, military drills, and period games; even a Valentine’s Day Tea including finger sandwiches and scones served on fine china by costumed “interpreters”. (Will there be costumed “slaves”?)
The kitchen and slave quarters. “Without their labor, Waveland would not have been possible.”
“I would use the the verb “enslaved” rather than the noun “slave” to implicate the inhumane actions of white people. “Enslaved” says more about what happened to black people without unwittingly describing the sum total of who they were.”
Deborah Gray White, Ph.D. (Distinguished Professor of History)
What is privileged– made dominant and idealized– in this white re-telling of Waveland is the architectural and artifactual elements of the plantation, the way of life of the Antebullum slaveholders, the beneficence of the slaveholders towards their slaves, and the legacy of the Bryan’s family enduring contribution to the City of Lexington.
What is ignored is the buying and selling of black bodies; the brutality of slavery; the psychological costs of enslavement; child abuse and sexual abuse of enslaved children and women; the tearing apart of families; the horrific demands of field labor; and the dependence on the caprices of the master.
The only reason white men were masters and white women were mistresses is because black men and black women and black children were enslaved.