If white Americans took the time to learn white people’s role in US history, then equality and justice would be more attainable ‘Communities of color have taken it upon ourselves to self-educate in order to gain knowledge about America’s dark past and the roles white communities played.’ Photograph: Andrew H Walker/REX/Shutterstock Last week, I was talking to one of my closest Black friends. Why is it, I wondered with frustration, that Black people must constantly educate white people about racism? He replied: “The problem isn’t that white people have trouble grasping racism, the problem is that they know very little about themselves. Everyone else in America knows more about them than they do.” I had yet to fully grasp the truth of that realization – until now. This past summer, I found myself explaining white history to my white peers in ways that they could never do. They had little understanding of how systemic racism works, despite benefiting from it; had no idea that white slave owners regularly raped young Black boys or cut off the toes and feet of runaways. Their understanding of the full horrors of slavery is shallow. They could not tell you what Malcom X was known for, while simultaneously singing the praises of Martin Luther King Jr. And few of them were familiar with the term Jim Crow, yet also had ancestors who lived through that same era. Few of these white friends were aware of their unconscious biases, found police brutality to be a shocking, new issue – as if these cases have not been happening throughout our entire existence – and had little knowledge of hate groups mobilizing until the highly publicized failed coup at the US Capitol. Simply put, even for white people who consider themselves progressive, fair, or “woke”, a Black person could most often tell them more about their ancestors, community and their position on the social hierarchy than they could themselves. Whiteness, white history and the wrongdoings of white ancestry are the reasons Black Americans celebrate our history. And those who seem to know the least about white history, whiteness and what it means to be white in America today are, in fact, white Americans. If white Americans would take the time to learn about their ancestors, the role white people have played in American history, and what whiteness means, the same way other cultures consistently learn about their own history in America, then their desires for an equal, fair and just America would be more attainable. The excuse that our education system has failed us and sugarcoats American history is worn out. Communities of color have taken it upon ourselves to self-educate in order to gain knowledge about America’s dark past and the roles white communities played. Despite the recent uptick in reading lists on white supremacy that circulated on social media last summer during the Black Lives Matter protests, most white people have unknowingly, and consistently, chosen to remain in the dark. Perhaps it’s because they feel no urgency to. After all, America’s dark history, and present, doesn’t have a negative effect on white people’s livelihood. It doesn’t damage their trust in police, or increase their risk of pregnancy complications, or suppress their right to vote. But in choosing to ignore the historical issues that fuel modern-day systemic racism, white Americans are actively deciding not to learn about themselves. If white people would understand that in learning white history, they’ll also learn Black history, Mexican American history, Japanese American history, and Native American history, they could quickly change from being the least informed group on race in America to the most informed. Black people in America have a thorough understanding of what their community experienced dating back to 1619, when the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown. They’re aware of not only the extreme beatings and harsh working conditions of slaves, but the history of African people displayed at zoos, and the usage of Black women in cruel science experiments. White people, however, rarely know the full extent of the cruel activities their community carried out during this 400-year era, and lack knowledge of how that legalized mistreatment set their community up with wealth, education and land, while it set the Black community back in ways that are still apparent today. White people know the Jim Crow era established laws that made it illegal for people of color to sit at the front of the bus or use the same drinking fountain as a white person, but aren’t aware of the terrorist attacks carried out by their community like the burning of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa massacre, or the FBI’s role in dismantling the Black Panthers, the most powerful Black power political organization, through murder. These race-driven ambushes were intended to set the Black community back and progress the white community forward. It’s time for white people to learn about their privileges the same way people of color have learned about white privileges. They need to ask themselves why most families of color do not have generational wealth or still have children who are becoming first-generation college students. They need to look around their office spaces and figure out why mostly everyone at work looks like them. There are historical and modern-day reasons for all of this, and everyone seems to know why except for white people. It’s time for that to change.