I am sitting at my desk trying to work, but thinking about this "day off" - this so-called holiday - I know we are supposed to be about family/friends and be thankful... I appreciate this sentiment, and I do enjoy catchin up with people I haven't talked to in a while, gettin text messages from friends, catchin up on work, cleaning, and sleep. Yes, I am enjoying all this, but I am also thinking about what this day really means and how the history of this day is covered up and glossed over in favor of the happy tale of "pilgrams and indians" feasting together. And so while many people (generally speaking) know that "the indians" were killed, forced onto reservations, and their land stolen, at the same time these horrid realities are disconnected from "thanksgiving" and the nice pilgrams. How can this be?
Cultural and historical amnesia fuels this day. We need to remember that it was founded by Abraham Lincoln for the purposes of nation building. And even as we enjoy the much needed time off from our ever busy and crazy hectic lives, we need to remember and tell a more accurate history of this day.
We should do this because the "thanksgiving" mythology is so powerful that it continues to be held up as one of things that makes america great. But this america is founded on bloodshed, genocide, and enslavement, which began with the first settlers and their common practice of giving small pox infected blankets to Native Americans, and the first official Pilgrim "thanksgiving day" that actually celebrated the massacre of the Pequot Tribe.
Today, I read this week's Black Commentator Editorial, and it reminded me why I study what I do and re-affirmed to me why we must in the words of Audre Lorde organize across difference and build alliances among people of color. Please check out this article - it is long but very informative and contains an overview of the historical background of thanksgiving. It explains how the history of this day is rooted in white supremacy, genocide, and slavery.
Check it out soon cause it will only be available free online till next Wednesday: Black Commentator.com
In case you miss it, here are a few thought-provoking points from the article:
"Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple, an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life events – subsequently revised – were perfectly understood at the time as the first, definitive triumphs of the genocidal European project in New England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder of the northern English colonial seaboard was the true mission of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African Slavery commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately inseparable Act Two. The last Act in the American drama must be the “root and branch” eradication of all vestiges of Act One and Two – America’s seminal crimes and formative projects. Thanksgiving as presently celebrated – that is, as a national political event – is an affront to civilization. ...
The British North American colonists’ practice of enslaving Indians for labor or direct sale to the West Indies preceded the appearance of the first chained Africans at the dock in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. The Jamestown colonists’ human transaction with the Dutch vessel was an unscheduled occurrence. However, once the African slave trade became commercially established, the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably entwined. New England, born of up-close-and-personal, burn-them-in-the-fires-of-hell genocide, led the political and commercial development of the English colonies. The region also led the nascent nation’s descent into a slavery-based society and economy. ...
The Thanksgiving holiday fable is at once a window on the way that many, if not most, white Americans view the world and their place in it, and a pollutant that leaches barbarism into the modern era. The fable attempts to glorify the indefensible, to enshrine an era and mission that represent the nation’s lowest moral denominators. Thanksgiving as framed in the mythology is, consequently, a drag on that which is potentially civilizing in the national character, a crippling, atavistic deformity. Defenders of the holiday will claim that the politically-corrected children’s version promotes brotherhood, but that is an impossibility – a bald excuse to prolong the worship of colonial “forefathers” and to erase the crimes they committed. Those bastards burned the Pequot women and children, and ushered in the multinational business of slavery. These are facts. The myth is an insidious diversion – and worse." - The Black Commentator, Editorial November 22, 2007 -
I'm sharing not to spoil our thanksgiving day dinners and such, but rather to share in the spirit of survival IN SPITE of all the forces that have tried to destroy so many. I am thankful that we (as in marginalized peoples, people of color, working poor, and indigenous peoples across the world) have fought, have raised our voices, and are still fighting and still raising our voices...
in the struggle... peace & soul,