Now before you get the wrong impression and get all in your feelings, please understand that this is not a Thanksgiving hit piece. I personally love Thanksgiving. It’s probably my favorite holiday. And yet, there are some things I think we can challenge and make better about Thanksgiving; especially when you consider it is a holiday born out the plunder of the native people and the celebration of prosperity gained by the atrocities of European colonialism.
With this in mind, here are 10 ways we can NOT have a Thanksgiving rooted in false narratives and white supremacy.
1) Acknowledge that Thanksgiving, like all of our American holidays, says much more about who we want to be in the present as a country than who we really were in some past time. We just need to be honest about this ALL year long. We never as virtuous as our holidays portray.
2) Stop perpetuating the peaceful Godly pilgrim story. The fact is the 17th century New England colonists, also known as pilgrims, celebrated their first harvest in the New World only after the mass slaughter of hundreds of Native Americans for the purpose of gaining supremacy of the land and resources. So tell the children the truth, they weren’t peaceful and they weren’t Godly. But they had a good feast.
3) Stop calling the Colonist’s first harvest in the New World the result of the hand of God’s favor. In order to believe this you must also believe that God sanctioned the denigration of Native American life just to bring prosperity to European life. My theology does not allow for a God that is a white supremacists and hope yours doesn’t either. So we must abandon this theological myth.
4) Recognize that though Thanksgiving for most of us Americans is a day of national pride and gratitude, for many Native Americans view it as a day of mourning. This means as we enjoy the festivities of the holiday we should also keep in mind that it comes at the expense of a people who have endured long and shameful legacy of disinheritance in this country.
5) Remember that while we give thanks for material blessings we don’t want to be like the so-called Pilgrims and turn a blind eye to the poor, the oppressed, and the socially marginalized in our midst. Though we should not necessarily feel guilty for what we have, we should at least be touched on some level by the plight of those less fortunate.
6) Don’t be that person that says holidays should be a time where we take a break from thinking critically. These are the “leave the politics and social stuff out of Thanksgiving” people. You can bury your head in the turkey but that won’t change a damn thing. The history will still be what it is. And people like me will still tell the story because as the saying goes Zora Neale Hurston said, “if you stay silent about your pain they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.
7) Remember that it is possible to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with all of it’s benefits and at the same time use it as an opportunity to decry white supremacy and give service to those in need. I believe in us. We can do it all at the same time.
8) Spend some time reading up on the history and plight of the Native American tribes, especially if you’re unfamiliar with their story. Or better yet, give to a Native American justice organization to help combat the disinheritance they still face on so many levels.
9) Enjoy the day, eat lots of good food, laugh with friends and family, watch sports if that’s your thing, rest up and wake the next day and look for new opportunities to dismantle the structures of white supremacy and advance freedom and justice.