- Category: World News
- Published Thursday, January 21, 2016
- CTV News
The president of an Oregon community college is defending her school's decision to hold a "Whiteness History Month," saying the event is meant to encourage discussion about racial identity and privilege – not to shame or celebrate white people.
Portland Community College is slated to hold its first-ever Whiteness History Month in April, with the intent to explore "the construction of whiteness, its origins and its heritage."
"We view this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America's college campuses," Sylvia Kelley, interim president of PCC, said in a statement on Thursday.
Kelley explained that "whiteness" is an academic term, "commonly used to describe the social and political construction of white identity related to beliefs, cultural norms and privileges.
She also acknowledged that discussing "whiteness" is "challenging and uncomfortable work," but she hopes the event will "enable a rich and engaging exchange of ideas.
"There is no intention, as some may have feared, to 'shame or blame' anyone," she added.
Kelley's statement came in response to accusations that the school was attempting to demonize white people through Whiteness History Month.
In a separate news release to announce the event, the school said Whiteness History Month is not meant to be celebratory. "The Project seeks to challenge the master narrative of race and racism through an exploration of the social construction of whiteness," the statement said.
The event was proposed by the college's campus diversity council, and is now being planned by a "diverse, multidisciplinary group" of students, faculty and staff, Kelley said.
The United States and Canada traditionally observe Black History Month in February. Both countries also hold history or heritage months dedicated to other groups at other times of the year.
Canada observes Asian Heritage Month in May, National Aboriginal History Month in June and Women's History Month in October.