Some of you may have the practice of sharing gratitudes as you sit down to turkey dinner on Thursday. If you did that today, did you take time to reflect on how you came to acquire those things for which you are grateful? Are you in a home? It’s on stolen land. Is there cotton in your table linens, shirt, or underwear? Your wardrobe is built on the legacy of slavery. Are you eating food? It’s harvested, processed, and packaged by underpaid migrant laborers.
This is not a guilt-trip, but is an acknowledgement that this nationalist holiday is a celebration of genocide. It is recognition that our taxes fund governmental systems that continues to fund ugly things, like cops shooting Black children on public playgrounds (RIP Tamir Rice) and forcing oil pipelines, refineries, and highways through economically-politically depressed minority communities. So yes, we are responsible for causing harm, at least in a complicit good-citizen manner.
If you already grapple with harsh realities, but are wont to hang your head and proclaim, “It’s so awful, but I don’t know what to do!” here are a few suggestions. First, read this gratitude poem to help you get in touch with how many people of color feel as we once again face this settler colonialist national holiday. Then, help rebalance the playing field by paying annual reparations to tribes or community organizations serving people of Indigenous and African ancestry. You can practice generosity towards a local tribe who very likely has members in need of food, fuel, and housing right at this moment. If you don’t know the tribe that used to occupy the land on which your home is built, try this map.
I’ve had students complain that the graphic is hard to read because the print is so small. That’s kind of the point, to illustrate the diversity of Indigenous cultures present prior to colonial contact, but if it hinders your quest to pay reparations, invest $20 and buy an easy to read print copy here http://www.tribalnationsmaps.com/. Alternatively, check out this website.
Finally, BOYCOTT BLACK FRIDAY. Recognize this day as a putrid elevation of vapid consumerism that only contributes to further economic and political abuse. Recognizing our complicity in systems of oppression and making different choices is the only way we will achieve social change and collective healing.