Thanksgiving’s racism highlights the need for change


Source: Pixabay

Maida Suta, Reporter

Thanksgiving is a holiday with a tumultuous history that must change. From its contribution to historical revisionism to the reinforcement of stereotypes, Thanksgiving has multiple fundamentally problematic elements.

Thanksgiving is often used to fortify the idea that colonists came to the Americas peacefully. If the colonists had not come peacefully, there would be no reason for the Indigenous people, in this case the Wampanoag, to celebrate with the pilgrims.

Alongside films like “Pocahontas,” which romanticize the abuse of Native women, Thanksgiving is often a tool used to cement the blatantly incorrect idea that Indigenous people and colonists got along. 

The genocide that Indigenous people were targets of is a mere footnote compared to the supposedly wholesome, fun holiday.

But Thanksgiving isn’t only used as a tool for revising history and romanticizing the brutal history of genocide and colonization of the Americas. It actively reinforces stereotypes as well. 

Elementary schoolers are guided through making crude imitations of sacred tribal headdresses as a fun Thanksgiving craft. The decorations that adorn family homes and classrooms depict smiling Native Americans, all dressed identically.

Some might not bat an eye at these decorations and activities, but others would realize they are contributing to significantly problematic historical trends and mindsets. Not only is sacred regalia reduced to a fun activity, but the notion that all Indigenous people dress with identical regalia is pushed as well.

That isn’t to say that Thanksgiving hasn’t changed at all. Many use Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks to loved ones and their community, and gather family and friends for a hearty meal.

Although giving thanks is important, this doesn’t make up for the continued use of Native American stereotypes and caricatures as a means to celebrate. Nor does it balance out its frequent use as an event that distracts from and revises the violent history of abuse from colonists against Native Americans.

Thanksgiving must wholeheartedly depart from a whitewashed tale of peace and unity and shift to a focus on values alone. Gratitude and generosity are nice values to hold on their own, and the elaborate lie of the first Thanksgiving and the relationship between the pilgrims and the Indigenous is not needed at all.

While it’s impossible to detach entirely from its roots, Thanksgiving must change and leave behind the racist narrative and decorations in order to stop perpetuating the same racist ideas that continue to harm Native Americans.