Why Oregon's largest college is hosting its first Whiteness History Month.

Whiteness is very much a thing. That much we know.

GIF via Snuggie.


But whiteness is not simply "being white." Whiteness refers to the often invisible yet elaborate and pervasive system of privilege afforded to white people in our country and much of the world. Those with privilege, whether they want to or not, receive advantages and decision-making power in the media, private sector, judicial system, and policymaking. The idea of whiteness is ingrained in our systems and ways of thinking, and it has numerous cultural, economic, and legal consequences.

As far as cities go, it doesn't get much whiter than Portland, Oregon.

Photo by iStock.

As a new resident of Portland, I've quickly learned it's much more than brunch, beer, and bikes. Portland is home to great soccer, delicious food, and so, so, so many white people.

In fact, 76% of Portland is white, making Portland the whitest big city in the United States.

That's why for the first time ever, Portland Community College is offering a Whiteness History Month.

Developed by a subcommittee of the PCC Cascade Campus Diversity Council, the project, officially titled Whiteness History Month: Context, Consequences, and Change, is a month of programs and events to explore the origins of whiteness and its impact on the campus community and culture.

To be clear, Whiteness History Month is not a celebration of white power and privilege, nor is it Black History Month for white people.

The goal of Whiteness History Month is not to open old wounds or point fingers for the heck of it. Instead, the goal of the project is to develop new solutions to societal and community problems that are born of racism and privilege.

Big problems like over-policing, and small problems like the fact that when I went looking for a stock photo of a "college classroom" the first photo that came up was literally all white students:

Photo by iStock.

PCC's planning committee is currently soliciting programming ideas from students, faculty, and the community for the month-long event.

PCC is Oregon's largest post-secondary educational institution, serving over 90,000 students across four campuses and eight specialized centers. Programming for Whiteness History Month, to be held this April, will take place at all four campuses and may include discussions, lectures, films, presentations, artwork, and even plays.

It's all in an effort to spark dialogue, improve campus climate, promote student retention, and build partnerships in the community.

"Join us! When they're not shooting at us, it's fun over here." Photo by iStock.

Though the goals are admirable, some are calling the month-long diversity initiative "white-shaming."

GIF via Erykah Badu's "On & On."

And sadly, those voices are missing the point.

Whiteness History Month is not an attempt to shame white people for colonialism, racism, or even having privilege.

It is, however, an effort to get a very important conversation happening — one that is often derailed because we have difficulty talking about race or prefer to advocate for "colorblindness."

But when unarmed black people, even children, are gunned down by the police; when black people continue to die in jail cells under suspicious circumstances; when applicants with "ethnic-sounding" names are less likely to get job interviews; when being black is akin to having a credit score 71 points lower in the eyes of mortgage lenders; when transgender women of color are murdered at an alarming rate; when not one person of color is nominated for an acting Academy Award; when people in the 21st century are still dressing in black face; when protestors have to block shoppers and travelers to get people to pay attention to their messages; when I wake up every day as a woman of color hoping my name's not a hashtag by sundown, maybe, just maybe there's a problem here.

We can't fix racism until we can talk about how going through life with white skin is different from going through life with dark skin, and Whiteness History Month seeks to open the doors to exploring those differences so that we can at least have those conversations.

Demonstrators marching for an end to gun violence and the resignation of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Racism is in our neighborhoods, our courtrooms, our boardrooms. Much of it stems from whiteness and the inequality it creates and perpetuates, knowingly or not. We're not going to be able to tackle those problems until we acknowledge that the system isn't set up for everyone to get a fair shot.

As #BlackLivesMatter activist DeRay Mckesson suggests, those with privilege need to acknowledge it exists and use it to signal boost voices that too often go unheard.

While the name could use some work, Whiteness History Month has the potential to raise awareness of this important issue.

Portland Community College, a major employer and place of higher learning for the Pacific Northwest, deserves applause for taking bold steps to address the problem of racism and oppression in the campus community.

Real change isn't going to happen until we have some tough conversations and begin working together.

This inaugural event may not bring an end to all racism everywhere (that's a very tall order) but it's a much needed start.

A woman holds a sign with a quote from MLK during a march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Usually when we share a story of a couple having been married for nearly five decades, it's a sweet story of lasting love. Usually when we share a story of a long-time married couple dying within minutes of each other, it's a touching story of not wanting to part from one another at the end of their lives.

The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

Patricia, who was 78 at her passing, had made her career as a nurse. LD, who would have turned 76 next month, had been a truck driver. Patricia was "no nonsense" while LD was "fun-loving," and the couple did almost everything together, according to their joint obituary.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

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Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

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via Elliot Page / Instagram

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Page made the announcement on social media where he celebrated the joy of coming out while taking the opportunity to discuss the issues faced by the transgender community.

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