It’s that time of year again, the U.S. celebration of gratitude and turkey and colonialism. Whether that holiday means tryptophan and football, or trying to avoid conversations about religion and politics with the relatives, I thought that readers here might be interested in a roundup of what people are saying around the web about Thanksgiving and racism:
- Thanksgiving costumest – cute or racist? Momlogic wonders about the costumes in a traditional Thanksgiving school pageant. Would you let your kids dress this way?
- “The Lie of Thanksgiving” – a blog post from the Colorado American Indian Movement (AIM) breaks it all down for you.
- ‘Headhunters,’ ‘Thanksgiving,’ and other racist control myths. Kyle at DMZ Hawai’i writes about the ways that Westerners project their fears, anxieties and hatreds onto indigenous peoples, when it should be white people considered the real ‘headhunters.’ He has a point; he discusses the repatriation of 22 skulls of native Hawaiians from the Stockholm antiquities museum.
- “Once a year.” In another link roundup, Resistance has some resources for the ‘once a year’ that most Americans think about native peoples.
- “Remembering Two-Spirits this Thanksgiving” – Rev. Irene Monroe calls on us to remember “my Two-Spirit Native American brothers and sisters who struggle with their families and tribes not approving of their sexual identities and gender expressions as many of us do with our families and faith communities.”
Robert Jensen, author of Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Light Books, 2005) has several pieces critical of this most American of holidays, each worth a look:
- “Give Thanks No More: It’s Time for a National Day of Mourning” – a 2005 piece in which Jensen calls for an end to this holiday.
- “Raining on the Thanksgiving Day Parade” – a follow-up to the previous piece, in which Jensen takes another tack [thanks Curmudgeon]: “rather than mount another attack on the national mythology around Thanksgiving — a mythology that amounts to a kind of holocaust denial, and which has been critiqued for many years by many people — I want to explore why so many who understand and accept this critique still celebrate Thanksgiving, and why rejecting such celebrations sparks such controversy.” Jensen refuses to participate in the holiday gatherings at all.
- “How I Learned to Stop Hating Thanksgiving and Be Afraid” – Jensen further reflects on his refusal to be complicit in this holiday and he writes: “In recent years I have refused to participate in Thanksgiving Day meals, even with friends and family who share this critical analysis and reject the national mythology around manifest destiny. In bowing out of those gatherings, I would often tell folks that I hated Thanksgiving. I realize now that “hate” is the wrong word to describe my emotional reaction to the holiday. I am afraid of Thanksgiving. More accurately, I am afraid of what Thanksgiving tells us about both the dominant culture and much of the alleged counterculture.”
Do you think Thanksgiving should, as Jensen suggests, become a “national day of mourning”? Leave a comment or take our new poll (top left, under the banner).
Sorry to be a nag, but I’ll still mention it. In the blurb for Robert Jensen, I believe the line “a follow-up to the previous piece, in which Jensen takes another tact” is mistaken. I believe the phrase is “takes another TACK”.
“Briefly, tact is defined as “a ready and delicate sense of what is fitting and proper” while tack in this sense is “a course or line of conduct or action; implying change or difference from some preceding or other course”. It comes from the nautical verb tack “take a course or movement obliquely opposed to the direction of the wind”.”
Keep up the good fight!
Thanks, Curmudgeon. I fixed the error. If I ever wonder whether someone’s reading or not, I just have to add in a typo to find out. Fortunately, this is not hard when posting at 5:30 and pre-coffee.
I find it odd that the US seems to have a (German) Holocaust Remembrance Day but no American Holocaust Remembrance Day. Or do you?
and thanks for posting the links to Robert Jensen, I like his articles and what he has to say a lot:-)
JWBE, sadly, there is no American Holocaust remembrance day, or even any public discussion of that Holocaust other than that from Native Americans and a very few antiracists in other groups.
Germany also suffers from willful amnesia when it comes to our colonial history:
jwbe thanks for that link. I don’t know much about Germany’s history of colonialism but I knew it had a significant one.
I’m not sure why we should stop at Native American Holocaust Day. We could have an African-American Holocaust Day, another day to atone for the historical oppression of American women etc. We could have a day each to atone for the treatment the Irish faced when they arrived, the Jews, the Italians etc. The Japanese internment campers. We (obviously) could have a day set apart to atone for those slaughtered in our aggressive wars. Another for those tortured. I bet we could come up with 365 of these holidays, and that way, every day of the year we could impress upon Americans that they should be ashamed of their heritage. If we got them to perpetually focus on the wrong their ancestors have done we could (fingers crossed!) get them to turn on, to literally *hate* their own heritage, people and ancestors. Eventually, what once were “Americans” will be timid, servile, self-loathing wretches; deracinated, placeless, atomized, severed from the traditions of their ancestors, the way of life that was their birthright, the traditions that are the manifestation of the collective wisdom of their people, and finally from each other. All the better if they are to serve the State, or at least the corporate elite who own it. It should not be hard to get the media on board. They are owned by that same elite. The atomized individual is their natural prey.
Let’s do this!