Thanksgiving: A Window Into White Privilege

As I sit here in my bed sore from work I'm listening to the militant Pilipino-American rapper Bambu's newest album "...i Scream Bars for the Children..." In the song "Chairman Mao" Bambu spits:
We need to monitor the educationing of our kids,
we need the money to be evenly distributed out,
We need Ann Coulter to shut her motha fuckin' mouth.
Zapatista guerra,
as soon as the beat plays,
my riffle's a little scrappy,
is my A-Kay-Kay-Kay!
Indigenous spear checkin' on my,
my spear X these white boys out,
like Kevin Federline.
(Emphasis mine)

As Carlo blogged previously in where he posted an essay on Thanksgiving by Robert Jensen we need to stop and think for a moment what is we are celebrating. For me Thanksgiving is the one day in the year were we can sit back and see white privilege and white supremacy being played out all over the nation.

We all know the myth about pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down and sharing a meal and having a good ol' time over turkey, pumpkin pie, and what not and we always look back and those who "came before" and are thankful that this nation was "founded" upon such noble principles as sharing and kinship and uh...well...merciless genocide of the, you know, Americans, as in the Native Americans, you know, the people who were kinda here thousands of years before the white man ever set foot on Plymouth Rock.

The reason why I say that Thanksgiving is a window into white privilege is because for those who don't view this country as racist and exploitative and who view this country as free and fair how come once a year we decide to celebrate the genocide of Native Americans? Because that's really what Thanksgiving is about. Being "thankful" for this "nation." A nation that only exists because white folks went on the "war path" and drove out millions of Americans from their home (and from this world) and went to war with Mexico to further expand this country and in then turned those guns on the Native Americans in the former Mexican territories. Even conservative historians admit as much, how could one not?

Yet we celebrate this. Not because we are happy over the deaths of millions but because of the way our history is given to us. As Robert Jensen wrote:
When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history. In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who 'settled' the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously and one is asked, 'Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?'


History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The United States is hardly the only society that has created such mythology. While some historians in Great Britain continue to talk about the benefits that the empire brought to India, political movements in India want to make the mythology of Hindutva into historical fact. Abuses of history go on in the former empire and the former colony.
Essentially the celebration of Thanksgiving is the culmination of hundreds of years of white supremacy and white privilege condensed into one day. Whites have no idea how demeaning it is to Native Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving because they have grown up in a country that promotes whiteness as the norm and white supremacy as the mainstream. It's only through the concerted effort of white supremacist and uncritical historians, politicians, teachers, and others that Thanksgiving is still considered a holiday.

If we did indeed live in a society that was free and fair than we would have discussions on the media about what Thanksgiving really is about and we would read history books in the classrooms about the early massacres of Native Americans by the early white settlers (Spanish, English, and French), there would be debates over the radio that included Native American historians, leader,s and activists about their history and Black, Brown, and white historians discussing white privelege in this country and institutionalized racism and its very real realities today for all people of color, especially Native Americans.

And instead of celebrating the genocide of Native Americans we could probably turn the tables and start to "X these white boys out/like Kevin Federline."

I'll be tunning in today to see if any of this happens.

Just some food for thought as we feast with our families and friends over whatever it is we want to "celebrate."

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Frank Partisan said...

At Thanksgiving atleast no religion is involved, and it's more likely someone will feed a stranger.

Rediculous said...

why is it that people only care during christmas and thanksgiving about the poor?

Is it an internal guilt to help those who are less privilege?

You know where I am going with this.. yes, again, we have the White Man's burden.

but then again...

the other 363 days of the year... we forget about the poor.. we forget about the immigrants... instead we blame them for all our problems...

you know where i'm going with this... yes, again, we have scapegoating-a tool used by capitalist initially and now imperialist to focus our attention against each other instead of the real threat.

hmmm... we can go on for hours about this...

Apoplexy said...

Thank you for showcasing Sanhati.com

On behalf on the Sanhati collective