Let gratitude equal respect.
After a lifetime of misgivings about thanksgiving, it has taken me some years to crystallize what I believe today.
While this opinion may be a minority viewpoint and unwelcomed, I feel it’s still important to express and to hear. I have come to realize that I in fact oppose this “holiday” and stand against it, that I in fact do not agree with it, and that I take it so personally because as someone who identifies as “American,” I don’t agree with the collective identity that the United States holiday has come to represent about deeply racist and institutionalized aspects of the United States culture and psyche. Instead, I would rather align with a different American value, with the understanding that the founding documents of American democracy declaring “all men are created equal,” while of course only pertaining to certain people originally, still has potential and merit.
My misgivings started as a little girl growing up in Dallas, Texas. Thanksgiving for my mother represented the 3 F’s of family, food and football. She is to this day a diehard fan of the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team,” observing annually their American football game televised on Thanksgiving. My initial misgiving was that I felt subjugated to the phenomenon of mindless or excessive eating while watching a game on TV, instead of actually counting blessings and giving thanks.
During my vegetarian years (2003-2013), I felt Thanksgiving was an unnecessary cruelty for the harvest and slaughter of innocent turkeys. Insult was added to injury when I’d go for dinner at my conservative stepfamily’s with the instruction, “Don’t talk about religion or politics.” Why gather around a table if we cannot express our truest selves and offer the slightest prayer to the turkeys that gave their lives?
Then in 2020, after the killing of George Floyd and a more collective racialized sensitivity, I went for Thanksgiving at my father’s, who was then living in Sierra Vista, Arizona at the time. On my drive back to New York, I passed by the modest historic monument on Instertate 80 East marking Geronimo’s capture in Skeleton Canyon, which “forever ended Indian warfare in the United States,” as declared by the monument, as recently as September 6, 1886.
It dawned on me more sharply in this road trip of Thanksgiving 2020 just how disrespectful we are as a US culture, how the “holiday” at its best is insensitive, a parading of colonialism, a mockery of the Natives, a slap in their face as the Dallas Cowboys are televised (often playing against the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins) and families decide to gather joyously and traditionally on a national memorial for the genocide of the Native peoples.
How could we be so insensitive?
I hate, I repeat that I hate, how this day is seen by other countries as the most important of all holidays to the people of the United States.
This year, 2022, I’m in Spain. I thought I had “escaped” my two least favorite days of the year, the 4th of July and Thanksgiving, days deeply unsettling and unnerving to me. Naturally my expat community invited me to a friendsgiving, which I didn’t mean to take as an offense. I know that no matter how far I travel in the globe, my origins and roots are inescapable. I must still contend with these difficult feelings and emotions, which are often difficult to express.
Me he dado cuenta de que no tengo el vocabulario en español para discutir el evento, el desfile del thanksgiving. Entonces he intentado escribir una lista de palabras para empezar.
“Mi sangre hierve en medio de la ira, insensibilidad, falta de respeto, genocidio continuo, odio, emociones fuertes, igualdad, memoriales, trae lo peor del ser humano, repulsivo, atroz, falta de humanidad, humillación, inhumano, enraizado cruelmente, desconsiderado, avergonzante, diaspora, dar nausea, burlarse, día de luto, ingratitud“
I think when it comes to equity or Critical Race Theory, many people are scared away or offended.
I think when it comes to equity or Critical Race Theory, many people are scared away or offended. Trust me, I know and love and trust many friends who are going to be making delicious food this year on the fourth Thursday of November. Some of these people are my relatives and closest companions. I’m not saying we should do away with everyone’s happiness, celebrations and family traditions, even if I personally cannot palate a “traditional” thanksgiving dinner at this time. But if I advocate for anything for this event, I advocate for consciousness in the observance of what this day represents and a willingness to look deeper. As my good friend Marissa Biondolillo beautifully said, “Critical Race Theory is an attempt at doing better. It’s an attempt at acknowledging the whole story.” We can collectively acknowledge that we can do better.
Critical Race Theory is an attempt at doing better. It’s an attempt at acknolwedging the whole story.Marissa Biondolillo
We can collectively acknowledge that we can do better.
I am a human of Jewish and Filipino descent and thus have always had some sort of preoccupation with diaspora and its consequences. I don’t want to take “sides” regarding thanksgiving, but for sure if the day were, let’s say, a marker for a national Holocaust observance… Do you imagine me for two seconds sitting at a table and eating turkey on this day?
Please folks. There are lovely resources from Indigenous wisdom sources across the Internet and the globe. I don’t stand with genocide, even if thanksgiving doesn’t speak to the genocide of “my” people. This genocide, this ongoing genocide where Natives continue to face the loss of their lives, native languages, and native lands, just so happens to be a very recent genocide marking the founding of a perceived collective identity of a nation that happens to be “my” nation or homeland. The stewards of the very lands that reared my life.
Please consciously and deliberately and actively dispel the myth of thanksgiving at your family tables and gatherings. Please collectively hold any kind of vigil, light any kind of candle, say any kind of prayer to acknowledge Indigenous lives past, present and future in any lands. Check out http://www.uaine.org for livestreamed coverage of the Day of Mourning in Plymouth, observed by the United American Indians of New England and other Indigenous communities. Donate, support, read, share, legislate, stand with Native resilience, celebrate Indigenous life, offer prayers, educate your children, and give thanks. Let gratitude equal respect.
National Day of Mourning
United American Indians of New England
Events will be livestreamed for those who want to participate but cannot attend in person.
There is also a good list of resources for sharing information, promoting understanding, and beginning conversations (including the link on how you can still support the event event if you can’t attend).
On Thanksgiving: Why Myths Matter
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address
Introduction to the central prayer and invocation of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroqois Confederacy or Six Nations—Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Addresss – The People
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – The Food Plants