First comes Black History Month and then ... Whiteness History Month?
A community college in Oregon has set aside April to look at "whiteness" — but not to celebrate what it's described as a social construct which leads to inequality.
Portland Community College's Diversity Council is behind the event, which it called a "bold adventure" to examine "race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness, its origins and heritage."
The project is "not a celebratory endeavor" but an "effort to change our campus climate," the school said on its website.
Sixty-eight percent of the school's 90,000-strong student body is Caucasian, according to PCC's website.
"Whiteness refers to the construction of the white race, white culture, and the system of privileges and advantages afforded to white people," a definition on the school's event page reads.
The month of April will be dedicated to the project, which "seeks to inspire innovative and practical solutions to community issues and social problems that stem from racism," the school said.
Among the questions that will be asked:
- What is whiteness and how is it socially constructed?
- In what ways does whiteness emerge from a legacy of imperialism, conquest, colonialism and the American enterprise?
- Who benefits from the consequences of whiteness? Who loses from whiteness? How?
- What are alternatives to the culture of white supremacy?
- What are approaches and strategies to dismantling whiteness?
News of the plans has provoked some controversy and criticism. One far-right website accused PCC of looking to "trash White Americans," while Campus Reform ran a headline "Portland Community College to Devote an Entire Month to 'Whiteness' Shaming."
The school's interim president Sylvia Kelley said there was "no intention, as some may have feared, to 'shame or blame' anyone" during the project.
"We view this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America’s college campuses," she said in a statement.