Whiteness History Month: PCC President Defends School's Initiative


Portland Community College's interim president is defending the school's Whiteness History Month initiative planned for April.

"'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," Sylvia Kelley said in a statement. "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."

PCC made headlines this week when a couple news websites billed the WHM initiative as "whiteness-shaming." Like Kelley pointed out, the plan is not shame anyone, nor it is to be a celebratory affair. Unlike the nationally observed Women's History or Black History months, WHM is aimed at "add a critical layer of complexity to a national conversation sorely lacking in nuance," per its website.

68 percent of PCC's students in the 2013-2014 academic year were white, while 11 percent are Hispanic, eight percent are Asian or Pacific Islanders, and six percent are African-American, CBS News reported. PCC's Cascade Cascade Campus Diversity Council organized WHM and is accepting proposals for events and presentation until Feb. 1.

"We're trying to force a more nuanced discussion of society as it exists and how that society privileges people from a certain background and disadvantages people from other backgrounds," Abe Proctor, PCC's community relations manager, told KOIN. "The intent isn't to cast blame on anyone but rather to look at the context of racism and how it affects everyone."

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