Should we celebrate Thanksgiving? [OPINION]


Mbone Elango

Photo courtesy of: Katie Fisher

The origins of Thanksgiving are covered in blood.

When my family celebrates Thanksgiving, it looks nothing like the near-fable pilgrims and Native Americans peacefully sharing a feast. 

The tale told in elementary school classrooms is far from the truth. The arrival of pilgrims on the Wampanoag land is still a source of historical trauma for members of the tribe. 

But what does this mean for the turkey on the table four hundred years later?

Last Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but think about how the massacre and inhumane treatment of Native Americans had manifested into me stuffing my face with insane amounts of food. Gravy pooled in my stomach and settled into a pile of salty guilt.

Should we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving now that many Americans are waking up to the racist history of our country?

Imagine the 4th Thursday of November without celebrating Thanksgiving. I doubt that it would be any different from a normal day for you. I doubt that you’ll do anything to celebrate the history of indigenous people of America. Maybe you’ll still stuff your face with food, but with a burger or french fries instead of turkey. 

Pilgrims ransacked the corn and bean reserves of Native Americans just days after they arrived at Cape Cod.

Forget about the food, we can live without it.

Maybe Thanksgiving should have the same traditions but simply be renamed. Then I remember that painting over history with a black brush of ignorance is no better than whitewashing it.

Isn’t it ironic that Columbus Day has been renamed to Indigenous People’s Day? Of course, Christopher Columbus sucks, but I don’t think that giving Native Americans their own holiday is an effective way to address that. 

Let’s learn from the past. Without the food, overconsumption, decorations, holiday sales, or tv specials. 

What we should do is demand reparations for indigenous people. Erasing a holiday from American history will never achieve that.

But wait.

Do you disagree with thinking critically about the terrors of American history? Do you denounce critical race theory in all forms? 

Then I’ll remind you that the rise of Thanksgiving in American culture was rooted in white anxiety. In the late 1900s, white Protestants grew worried of ethnic white immigrants supplanting their clearly superior culture. The myth of Europeans welcoming Natives was meant to be seen as virtuous. 

Nothing in history is pure, and by neglecting the horrors of Thanksgiving, you are celebrating an ideal of the holiday that has never truly existed.

So enjoy your turkey, although it may be difficult to swallow now.