Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving, the dilemma

It's that time of year again when we stuff our bellies with tons of triptophan-laced turkey, stuffing, cranberry, rolls, papas and gravy. We get two days off of work and school to spend time with our friends and family and have few drinks, kick-back and relax. Yet, for those of us that know the history of this holiday, it is difficult to embrace the spirit of it with images of happy pilgrims and Indians permeating the grocery stores, office workspaces, and schools. During my hard-core activist days, we were angry at the Hollywood and Disney images of perfection that made anyone that didn't look that way feel like 2nd class citizens. Yet, now that we are parents, we're not so uptight about things. Even though my curly-haired, caramel, sun-kissed skin-toned daughter loves to watch the blonde, stick-thin Disney princesses I know that she can still enjoy watching those films and still have confidence in her own looks because, well, I'm her mom, and I won't let her think she's anything but beautiful. And now that she is in pre-school, the halls are filled with happy pilgrims in their puritan hats and muskets. The scary part for me is the day she tells me the story of Thanksgiving according to school doctrine. How or when do I tell her the complicated history? At what age do you open kids' eyes to the reality? It's the Libra (scales, balance, justice) and historian in me that can't turn a blind eye. I don't even know if I can bite my tongue at Christmas and tell her Santa is just pretend. I know she's only 3 but I just might and I know she'll be alright because I'm her mom and I won't let her think Santa is so necessary to her happiness. Her favorite question is "who buy this for me?". I don't think I can keep saying Santa without being annoyed. I did have a good laugh today at an episode of Dexter where the family was gathering around for Thanksgiving dinner and the daughter mentioned the slaughter of the Indians by the pilgrims after the supposed first Thanksgiving dinner. I'm glad to see the story is becoming a bit more mainstream, albeit in a Showtime series about a serial killer. It's something.
The question for me was to celebrate or not. I think it was an easy decision to celebrate Thanksgiving for the sentiments of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones. When I moved to LA from Texas for college, I had no family or friends here. The holiday wasn't long enough to fly home so I was stuck in my dorm hoping someone would invite me over. I honestly can't remember what I did each year if anything but I do remember going to San Diego freshman year to spend the day at my roommmate's aunt's house. We took Amtrack down and watched Nightmare Before Christmas in the theater. Another year, my friend from East LA invited me to spend the holiday with her family. Those invitations meant a whole lot to me and that's probably why I still remember them. I know what it's like to be lonely on these holidays and to pretend that you don't want to celebrate is not worth it. Who doesn't want to get together, eat, drink, watch the game, spend some time with others? I may never allow my daughter to dawn on a pilgrims hat or an Indian feather for Thanksgiving or place those images on my dinner table but I will eat a turkey and stuff my belly full of all the fixings and I will give thanks for all the good things in my life.


  1. A common dilemma, lol. One thing that has always bothered me is that there has always been an "excuse" to not tell the truth about this holiday, lol. But, hopefully, a show about a serial killer named Dexter might be able to break a few screws loose. I don't have any kids, but I see the same thing you're going through with my sister and her son.

    Personally, I was never a fan of this holiday and I was much less after I re-educated myself. The ONE thing that I can say, is that along with the other holidays, is the union and reunion of family. I hardly see them nowadays and with my schedule, I tend to see them less and there is just something special and ceremonial even, when we congregate and we eat tons of food, listen to loud ass music and take down countless shots of tequila. Friends I had in college or were from out of town, I definitely brought them to spend the holidays with my family and seeing them have as good of a time, (even better), as if they were with their family is what I really got out of it. I have a heart, I just don't let many see it, LOL.

    I don't think I could ever see my Nephew wearing any of that attire either. But, I guess its just that traditions are hard to break. I can't really blame my parents for passing on this pilgrim/santa nonsense because it had already been instilled in them for years, long before us. Their conditioning is much harder to re-condition, lol. I still love them.

    Keep doing what you're doing though. She's beautiful.

  2. CS is cheating! LOL I count that as post 1. Thanks for the insight Phil. You're right, we're all ingraned into doing this by society but nevertheless, I appreciate the two days off from work. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't celebarte at all.

  3. I'm on the "GET OVER IT" side of the fence. Quite frankly, I'm really sick of my European ancestors being demonized at every turn. No, I will not apologize for what they did - the point is that THEY did it, I DIDN'T. No civilization is free of imperfections - it's just a matter of which flaw or atrocity you choose to look at.

  4. I have to say that with wanting to teach my Boy all that is morally good and help him build a good foundation to who he is there is also the part of me that wants him to be able to enjoy being a kid. The fun that comes from celebrating "Turkey Day" and all the stuff that comes with those quirky characters that are in the Frosty and Rudolph claymations. I mean I like to see him have fun and smile and the reality is that history doesn't always provide that. I suppose it will be a "per situation" type of thing as he gets older and I see that he comprehends without building some uncontrollable or misdirected resentment.

    When he tells me that when he grows up he wants to have tattoo's like me and inside that makes me grin from ear to ear because I hear "I want to be like you". And then he says just that..."Dada, when I grow up I want to be like you". I almost cry. At the same time it is my responsibility that he knows that tattoos don't come without a price. Not only the money but the pain and discrimination that comes with them. In time I will have to explain things to him but it will be when he understands better. For now I say "Mijo tattoos hurt but it will be up to you when you're older". I do what I do for him out of love. Whether that is let him smile and laugh and play or explain the realities of things


  5. Yaya I enjoyed reading your post. While I don't have children of my own I think about this holiday a lot because I too always have it in the back of my mind what are we really celebrating? When we really think about what Thanksgiving really means then it really does not make sense. How can we celebrate the atrocities that happened to our Native American people. What makes me feel better is that I am aware of what happened and that I don't ignore it. That since I work with college students everyday, I have an opportunity to spread this knowledge and help students understand what really happened and not to ignore the issue.
    The other side of me also is not one to not celebrate something either just because of the history behind it. I truly believe that if I were to honestly be as environmentally friendly and socially conscious as I would like to be, I wouldn't live! I celebrate because like others have said, it's a time to be with family. For me family is very important and one that I value greatly and any opportunity for our crazy, loud and large Mexican family to get together is icing on the cake.
    Thanksgiving I celebrate to appreciate what I do have, and to remember how far I have come, how far my family has come and how much more we still need to grow. This year we finally have a dining room table, I know it sounds crazy but for a long time now we didn't have one because we were in a very tight spot and now we can actually sit and eat together. For those little things and more I give thanks not only this thursday but everyday of my life.

    Thank you Yaya for making me reflect and think about how grateful I am for having the life I have :)

    Enjoy tomorrow with family and friends.

    ~Rosa Contreras

  6. Anonymous, AKA Steve,
    I sometimes feel like I should just get over it but I also don't like images of guns around my kid so the Pilgrim holding the musket makes me sick. It's a reminder of the violence involved. Some people might say that you are benefitting from what your European ancestors did to everyone else by not having to worry about the continued discrimination/favoritism that persists in society today (just look at sheriff Arpaio in Arizona). I was reading a message board with a thread about a topic coming up at the Autry about gays in the West. Some of the comments on this particular thread were very negative and hateful. How we should not talk about homosexuality in terms of cowboys or the Western lifestyle. How back in the day, a homosexual would be "swinging from a tree" as if to say those were the good ole days. Denying that those atrocities happened allows people to turn a blind eye to the struggles people face today because of our violent history as a nation. There's a lot of hypocrisy involved when people sing "home of the free and the brave" and then turn around and spew racial slurs and don't tolerate anyone that is different. It all stems from when the Pilgrims arrived and looked at the "savages" and declared them less than human and closer to animals. It wasn't so long ago that society thought Black men actually had tails. Tails! It was meant to keep White women from being attracted to them. It sounds ridiculous but it happened.

    Thank you for sharing your point of view. I feel really spoiled right now because I've been down about my finances and such (as is everyone) but to know that you are grateful for a table is really humbling to me. You know, if all of us knew you needed a table, we would have pitched in, right? I think there isn't a greater feeling than to make someone's day. Please let us know if there is anything else you need. I may not be giving out as much to charity as I used to this year but we can all spare $20 for a family in need.