Yesterday morning we talked with our kids a bit about giving thanks, Thanksgiving and some of the histories that make this troubling in the USA.
I believe in giving thanks and that aspect of Thanksgiving has made it one of the holidays that really resonates with me. However, it’s tough to deny that the holiday as it’s been practiced here for many decades — if not since the very beginning — is tied up with colonization and racism. It all goes hand in hand.
The idea of giving thanks at harvest time isn’t unique to America — and I particularly appreciate what I’ve read of the Jewish holiday “Sukkot.” I think it’s appropriate to give thanks on something of a regular basis and love the idea of it having a special time — and rituals — to remind us all of this need; an opportunity to celebrate the many diverse aspects of our world and lives that should be recognized. But tied as it is to the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, our holiday here seems to deny the devastation and evils of colonization in the Americas, and paints the kind of racial harmony that’s typical in narratives that reinforce white supremacist culture.
I’m thankful now that the idea of thinking more deeply about holidays like this and how they reflect our culture feels like something we (well, many of us) can do. It was, after all, not so many years ago that Columbus Day was the norm. But we (and I’m speaking mostly about white people) must be more present and thoughtful on all days, taking time to recognize when events, practice and language are being used to reinforce the racist and exploitive aspects of American culture.
I’m thankful for many things. Among them for this time when that work isn’t really unusual. And for holidays that remind us to recommit throughout the rest of the year.