Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Turkey Called Brotherhood

(yet another hat tip to Renee @ Womanist Musings)

This is pretty obnoxious.

Basic rundown: A pair of schools have a Thanksgiving tradition of dressing one kindergarten class up as indians and one as pilgrims. They have a parade and then go have a party together. This year, a parent who is actually native, protested this event, calling out the lie that children are being forced to believe, the lie of the peaceful coming together of white settlers with native tribes. She also protested the racist stereotypes being perpetuated by the "indian"costumes.

The thing that chaps my ass is all of these white people trying to claim that this is not offensive at ALL! That these are just CHILDREN! Enjoying a holiday TRADITION! I am so glad that these privileged asswipes can conveiniently forget that by TEACHING these children this tradition, they are continuing the myth of a benevolent white man vs the gentle savage. I really wish they would blow it right out of their asses. As the member of the group that benefits from the oppression of the other, YOU DON'T GET TO SAY WHAT IS OFFENSIVE TO THEM! This is Don't Be An Asshole 101 folks.

These white people wringing their hands about telling children the truth of their history reminds me somewhat of this clip:

I normally don't like South Park all that much, but every once in a while, they have a really good point. That IS how it actually happened. This idea that white people calmly showed brown people their "better ways" in the spirit of brotherhood and Christian Godliness is blatantly false, besides being obnoxious and racist as fuck.

And if we are really going to clutch our pearls and gasp about "THE CHILDREN," consider this: what about those native children, who learn their history from the perspective of people who think that it is okay to ignore the massive damage done to their people? They learn that their history doesn't matter, only the history of the white man matters. Renee says it very well:
It is further disgusting that children are being taught this falsehood as a method of maintaining white hegemony through the physical performance of revisionist history. The indoctrination of children with revisionist history is part of the way that racism passes from one generation to another.

Of course to a child this seems like a harmless tradition, they have no knowledge of history. They count on us as adults to be their guides and tell them the truth. This is an abdication of our responsibility to educate them.

Native culture has repeatedly been appropriated. We see it show up in the form of mascots for sporting teams as a normalized display. People seem to feel that it is their right to cheapen and demean the culture of another, while telling the oppressed community that they are being too sensitive.(go read her post Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture. I'll wait here)

The myth of the peaceful thanksgiving is regularly offered up in order to forget that the real beginning of this country was violent, painful and bloody. What happened to the native population of this hemisphere when Europeans came here was GENOCIDE. Nothing less.

We continue this heroification of the white people who came here and supposedly built this amazing civilization out of nothing, ignoring the rape, enslavement, murder, cannibalism and early germ warfare that made all of this possible.

These lands were not "discovered" by Europeans. You cannot "discover" a place where people are already living! Many of these colonies would not have survived if not for the work already done by tribes living there previously, if not for stealing from the tribes who were still there, if not for enslaving members of these tribes, if not for living off of the decomposing bodies of natives who were killed by epidemics spread from early European explorers, if not for slaughtering whole cultures.

Whole cultures, languages, ways of life are GONE, destroyed by this idea that God gave White people dominion over the Earth.

I will be using this day to teach my children about the cultures that were here already, about what happened to them, about what their lives are like now. I do not accept this white-washing of my history.

As a kid, I always wanted to do a Weddnesday Addams when confronted with this season:

Granted, a good deal of what occurs leading up to her soliloquy is offensive as hell, which is not surprising considering it is intended to show a white privileged man's perspective of the Thanksgiving myth.

In the end, I believe we have an obligation to be honest about our history. There is no excuse for ignorance, and no excuse for degrading displays of faux "brotherhood." These myths are dangerous, despite what some may think. They allow those of us who are granted white privilege to pat ourselves on the back and escape our responsibility to end oppressions that we benefit from. They create an environment where understanding of current effects that can be traced back to these event is impossible, because without honesty in regards to our history, we have no realistic idea of the true roots of injustice. These myths create an attitude that we white western people can still charge into whatever country we want and do whatever we please because we forget that we aren't the saviors of the goddamn world. They allow us to be blind to the personhood of others, and to the actual effect we have on the world. They allow us to continue to marginalize and oppress others simply for not being one of us.


  1. We continue this heroification of the white people who came here and supposedly built this amazing civilization out of nothing

    That right there is a very telling statement. The idea that we built something ignores the fact that there were flourishing cultures and civilizations in the Americas long before the first European step foot on this land. We have just devalued Indigenous culture and that is why we cannot recognize that.

  2. Renee, have you ever read "Lies My Teacher Told Me: the white washing of American history"?

    You would really get into it I think.