Why We Need to Stay Woke this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. A day to sit around the table and attempt to ignore racist, sexist and unpleasant relatives. While the first Thanksgiving was, in fact, a celebration of a successful slaughter of 700 members of the Pequot tribe. But we don’t talk about that, do we? The current narrative grew after World War I, and was built on the Puritan habit of starving people. Quite literally, they would starve people for days and then give thanks when God allowed them to eat again. All this to say, this is a pretty messed up holiday. Which begs the question… why do we still celebrate this day? And more importantly: what are we actually celebrating?

Harvest festivals appear in many cultures and religions around the world. Food is one of the most basic human needs, and celebrating an abundance of food in a culture that often has to go without is a logical tradition. But Thanksgiving never was a simple harvest festival here in the New World. It was a celebration of colonization. Turning whole nations on their heads to exploit their systems of land usage, hunting rights and governance. All to manipulate them, steal from them and then murder them.

The story of Thanksgiving is a complete fabrication. Little Billy’s line about friendship in his school play may leave a tear in your eye, but Billy is lying. The entire charade of Thanksgiving might actually be “white culture” — whatever that means. Flint has no water and reservations across the country are barely a step up from death camps. But here we are, pretending this is about turkey. Add in a football game and a heated debate about ungrateful immigrants and you’ve got yourself the ultimate holiday! Is there anything more American than complaining about people who don’t look like you while eating three days worth of calories?

So, in the name of authenticity, let us not plaster on a smile and pretend that everything is fine while the world is crumbling around us. Let us take this time to be honest and open with our families.

There’s nothing wrong with having a meal surrounded by loved ones. There’s nothing wrong with being gracious and grateful for the things you have in life. But our social aversion to conflict is part of why we have such deep divisions between us today, and avoiding it isn’t making it go away.

In preparation for the big weekend, I recommend the following current topics to be aware of:

(Pick 3 and do your research!)

  • Puerto Rico
  • #TakeAKnee
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Houston Relief
  • No One Is Illegal
  • ICE raids
  • Anti-abortion legislation in middle America
  • DACA
  • Environmental racism
  • The Shock Doctrine
  • Indigenous peoples in Latin America under threat
  • The Russia Scandal
  • Free Speech vs. Identity Politics

You don’t have to go to the mattresses on every topic, but it’s time to stop choking on stuffing while Uncle Jimmy confuses Sikhs for Muslims yet again. Also, if you’re the one who worked on dinner, then you can most definitely bring up any of these topics. You’re feeding people, you’re under no obligation to put up with their ignorance on top of their dishes. Maybe, if we start having these conversations at home, we’ll get better at having them in other places as well. And that definitely needs to start happening. So stop trying to turn Thanksgiving into something it never was, and start celebrating Truthsgiving. Turkey optional.

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One response to Why We Need to Stay Woke this Thanksgiving

Excellent, thank you for writing this…and…it’s also important to think about the turkey.

Engaging in the objectification and/or hierarichization of a living being (whether they’re identified as “human” or not is participating in the thinking/practices that underlie most forms of oppression. Aph Ko has written extensively about these notions.

Efforts to disrupt and/or end oppression will (necessarily I think) require giving up ways of comprehending and behaving that result in harm and/or oppression to any/all living beings, not just those who are “human”.

The same epistemologies that came up with the ideas of “race”, “sex”, etc also came up with the designations of “human” and “animal”. This stuff is pervasive and complex and incredibly difficult to sort through.

I appreciate the heck out of your efforts…thank you and thank you.

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