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:
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).
In the U.S., today is “Veterans’ Day,” a holiday intended to honor those who have fought and died in the armed services. There are several good pieces on Veterans Day and racism floating around the Internet that I wanted to share:
- “Black veterans: a complicated past and an unsung present.” Cliff Albright at The Examiner does a nice job of putting Veterans’ Day into context. He writes:
Black soldiers such as the Harlem Hellfighters and many others for centuries have done much to demonstrate Black courage and dignity. But on the other hand, Black soldiers have too often participated in wars of aggression, greed and imperialism–wars which were often aimed at other people of color. From the Buffalo Soldiers and their battles with the Native Americans to the Philippines, from Vietnam to Panama and Grenada, Black soldier have had to fight against folks that look like them for reasons that they must have known were, at best, questionable. In some cases, the irony of their predicament caused Black soldiers to show compassion for their foes, while in other cases it did not seem to make a difference. So clearly the experience of enlisted Black soldiers is part of why I’m torn about Veterans Day. But I’m also torn because of the experiences of Black veterans who weren’t actually enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces. These are veterans of a different kind of war—the FBI’s war against Black America.
While Louis was at the apex of his career as champion he opted to serve his country. He served in the United States Army from 1942-1945. During Louis’ tenure he took some ridicule from the African American community. Every major sector of life for African Americans faced segregation. The military wasn’t exempt. Despite the latter Louis loved his country. When asked why he entered the army Louis he issued the following: “Lots of things are wrong with America, but Hitler ain’t going to fix them.” … Louis was a Private First Class when he entered Army but was faced with second-class treamtment. Though Louis was serving his country he was in a segregated Army. The segregation that existed in the military was merely a reflection of the institutionalized racism in society and American sports.
Latinos in the U.S. military history have the highest number of Medals of Honor, the highest ranking medal for combat bravery in our Country, in all our wars since 1775, so we have proved our loyalty beyond a shadow of a doubt…..yet we still suffer from racism in our own backyard.
- “The Faces of Veterans’ Day” – ResistRacism has a very nice collection of historical photos of veterans from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, and observes:
Cyber Racism: Facebook is under fire in Australia for not pulling pages that contain racist rants, and this has led some to push for an overhaul of the cyber-racism laws there. Just as a reminder, Australia is a democracy and they regulate hate speech. It’s possible to do both. That’s not happening here in the U.S., so as Geoffery Dunn writing at Huffington Post points out, places like Team Sarah continue to roll out the online racism.
Hate Crimes, Old & New: Brent Staples has a nice column in yesterday’s New York Times about the contemporary exhibition of photographs of lynchings. Staples ponders the ethical dilemmas of showcasing these photographs in a time and place in which the perpetrators may still be alive and amoung the audience. Curiously, Staples seems to locate “haters” as exclusively in the past. There are plenty of examples around that suggest otherwise, including this case in Staten Island in which two white teens were arrested for the election night beating of a young black man and a hit-and-run. And, this incident in which a 12-year-old black girl was pounced on by white officers who assumed she was a “prostitute” because she was wearing “tight shorts,” is just outrageous. And, this incident reminds me of Judith Butler’s point in Excitable Speech that the State is often the worst perpetrator when it comes to hate-speech-and-acts. (It’s not quite the same, Butler was referring to speech/acts like the entire criminal justice system and in particular, the death penalty, but the fact these cops were acting in their official capacity as agents of the State seems like a related point.)
South African Racism Persists: The election of Obama has reverberrated around the globe, and people in South Africa are contemplating the implications of his election for the demise of racism. Back in November, South African novelist and Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer, declared that Obama’s election marks the end of racism. Chris Mbekela, a PhD student at Rhodes University, takes issue with Gordimer’s assessment. Writing at the Daily Dispatch Online, Mbekela argues that racism persists globally and in the South African context.
Racism & Homophobia: Irene Monroe takes up the debate about racism and homophobia, and argues persuasively that Gay is Not the New Black (h/t: Adia) and Heather Tirado Gilligan says that we need to work on healing the rifts between us by building coalitions among straight folks and LGBT folks across racial lines (h/t: Joe). The passage of Prop 8 gives “LGBT advocates the chance to show other minority groups that their causes are interconnected, legally and ethically.” Time to get to work, we’re all community organizers now.