As I watched this video on CNN I could not help but to be filled with disgust. Here we have the Indigenous community clearly stating that this tradition is offensive, and white people standing on their heads to say no it’s not harmful, or racist. One woman even has the nerve to pull the I have native friends card to justify her bigotry.
To be clear, what happened to the Native American community was genocide. There are tribes that are no longer in existence. There are unique cultures and languages that have been lost forever; and this woman somehow cannot see a comparison between that and what happened to the Jews in the holocaust.
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 to sensitive.
The oppressor does not have the right to tell the oppressed what is and isn’t offensive. No one exists with the inherent right to “other” another. Ignoring the complaints of the Indigenous community as hyper sensitive keeps whiteness at the centre of the discussion. To these people what matters is their ability to express power over another. The ability to create history in a certain light belongs to the conquerors and not the vanquished; and as such they feel it is their right to use the Indigenous community as a mascot in their celebration of white hegemony across the Americas. The story of the setters is not one of over coming strife, but that of rape, pillage, theft and murder. No amount of cleansing can erase the blood that the earth has absorbed. The truth is ugly, but it is one we must all face if there is to be any hope of achieving equality for all members of society. Expecting the Indigenous community to play noble savage and ignore the ways in which their ancestors were mistreated is once again an expression of white hegemony. Expecting the Indigenous community to be silent about the ways in which they continue to be marginalized, so that people can celebrate their deaths is beyond macabre, it is a denial of basic human rights. There is no thought to the Indigenous children who are being forced to celebrate a day of pain in their culture. They like their parents do not count, because socially we have decided that the only people of value in this society are white. While whiteness as good and normal may have become a normalized social thought, it does not mean that it should not be challenged. Arguing that a tradition is 40 years old does not serve as grounds for its continuation. As families gather to give thanks, they should have a real moment of reflection for what they are gathered together to celebrate: the rape, and near destruction of a people. It should not be a moment of levity, but one of mourning for the way of life that was lost, and the ways in which we have not progressed since then.