I tell you, Thanksgiving makes me feel all kinds of ways – I wouldn’t genetically exist if the Mayflower hadn’t come over, and yet …. because of that act of domination my ancestors who eventually immigrated would have never had a Native bride and my father wouldn’t exist. At the same time because of how America was discovered (stolen, infected…) there’s lots of blood and sadness connected even with this one day we hold in such reverence. It’s like…. I love the family ties, remembering the family bonds and being thankful for what you have a bit. I just don’t like all the stuff they taught me after 8th grade.
Too bad you can’t just decide that part of history is unimportant because you’re 13 and your fantasy world of sharing and caring ends in small pox infected blankets.
I know a goodly portion of Native people (not all mixed together like myself) who honor Thanksgiving and don’t even think about what it means. Then again I’ve also witnessed plays on the great heroes of this local tribe who slaughtered a great many white men (and the narrator looks at me during this school play like I might rise up and give cause for part two). I guess history goes both ways.
Which is something that’s been on my mind, I’ve realized that while I live in an area that is possibly the only area of the state where white males are not enjoying any sort of privilege, that I am wrong.
It really doesn’t matter that my grandfather lived on a reservation until his early teens. It doesn’t matter my family is filled with Jewish refugees from WWII. It doesn’t matter because my skin is the color of ivory, tinted with a hint of yellow (a nod towards my father’s people). I enjoy white privilege. Certainly not to the degree a white male would, but I do. I do receive a fair amount of prejudice daily, and I have many instances a week where my color is an identifier, ” That new white lady,” “That crazy white woman who teaches music.” But I can, if I want, move anywhere else in the USA and I would instantly become, “That new teacher,” or “That crazy new music teacher.”
I read an article about racism vs prejudice and it made me properly aware and uncomfortable. Not because I consciously go around calling up white privilege, I can’t. People long dead who committed atrocities did it for me by rewriting history – much like many victors do.
It makes me uncomfortable because why didn’t I know sooner? I remember seeing my dark-skinned grandfather giving deference in public often. Calling white men “Boss,” and trying not to stand out much. I thought he was shy. All those stories about reservation kids being up to no good, really didn’t mean anything to me. Why didn’t I notice?
How could I have not known? Why hadn’t I, as a youth, spoken up about casual racism? All those incredibly stupid jokes based on nationality and stereotypical untruths laughed about in secret at lunch.
Even now, when I am watched in stores when I shop, when I am distrusted for my skin color, I still can’t get it. I can’t.
So how do I fix it? How?
Do I refuse to celebrate holidays based on how bloody the battles were, if race was a factor in the battle or war? Do I teach my son to be ashamed because he is only a 32nd Osage Native American and therefore not legally “Native American,” but white?
I certainly do not go all white power and supremacist just to make myself feel better.
What should I do?
I do build strong family ties. I do not allow casual racism into my house into my workplace, and I accept that people make assumptions based on the color of our skin. I can’t pretend it doesn’t happen. I have to acknowledge it’s there. That people are ignoring it and that makes it a problem.
Then I teach my son to be better. To love better and fight for human rights better.
I double-check every write up to make sure I’m not feeding the stats on African-American male write ups and opt for a different discipline path. I get told I’m soft, or I can’t do and then I suck it up. I conference, I try to knock down every prejudice layered upon me so that maybe someday someone won’t automatically assume “all white people are…..” whatever type of way.
And I don’t feel ashamed of my ancestry. I didn’t ask to be born. You didn’t ask to be born. I do my best to live in a way that my descendants don’t have to worry about my race, their race, anybody’s race.
I do need to stand up for any future legislation that truly involves equality and maintaining equal rights for sex and race. I do need to vote, and work for a change in national attitudes. I cannot sit at home and assume other people will change it for me.We all owe the past something. We owe our ancestors to be something better. To be apart of something greater. We owe the future the ability to exist free of privilege unless it’s earned privilege good works, intelligence, artistic accomplishment…
I understand that’s a lot to assume of anyone, especially when the only thing on many people’s minds is how long their bird should be thawing.
But Thanksgiving is one day. One day to remember where we came from, who we love, how we share in what we sow.
It’s up to us really, on what we harvest this year, this decade. Will you consciously sow in a way we can all thrive, or only in a way a privileged few will?
Big questions over a big bird.