Thanksgiving, as well as many US holidays, is a triggering time for a lot of people.
Unhealthy family of origin dynamics, childhood trauma, and even just the stress of hosting a big gathering can be overwhelming.
Beyond the periphery of White people's families (this is a very White holiday, to be sure) is the reality that this is a very triggering time for a huge population of people because of the day's historical roots and current reality.
Colonization is Not Over
Most adults know by now the real story of the "Pilgrims and Indians." Maybe they had a nice meal one day, maybe not. But we do know that gratitude, generosity, and kindness was not what the Pilgrims were serving.
Not as many people recognize that the process of colonization is still happening today.
White people, with the help of the US government, are still stealing land and resources, and denying human and sovereign rights to Indigenous Peoples.
So no wonder this "holiday" is so upsetting. Not only is it deceitful to paint our history with such bright colors, but it is also deeply disrespectful and detrimental to minimize the current hardships that have endured for over 400 years.
Adding Insult to Injury
Indigenous Peoples in the Americas have immense collective trauma. And really, a couple hundred years is nothing for the kind of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual abuse inflicted upon them and their ancestors. It's still raw.
The last thing you want to say to someone who has survived trauma is to "get over it."
"It's not that big of a deal... you're over-reacting... it wasn't really that bad... it's in the past…"
But that's what we're saying when we celebrate the story of Thanksgiving, as well as with the many ways we appropriate Indigenous culture.
To be clear, I'm not discouraging getting together with your family for a festive fall meal. By all means, gather, share, celebrate the end of the harvest season, build community!
I'm talking about the focus on the fictional story taught in school, the school plays, the idealized images of Pilgrims as great, generous, and grateful.
Instead of using the day as another opportunity to teach our children the reality of our nation and to work on doing something about it, we use it to deepen the story of White Supremacy.
Support Collective Healing
Both personal and collective healing is possible when we listen without judgment, witness with compassion, take genuine responsibility, and make meaningful amends.
We need to change the cultural dialogue from "Get over it" to "I'm with you;" from "It's in the past" to "Harm is still happening today;" from "I didn't do it" to "How can we make amends?"
By shifting the dialogue from one that is alienating to one that is connecting, we start building the bridge needed to heal.
And not just Indigenous Peoples, but all peoples who have been marginalized and oppressed by White Supremacy. Even White peoples need this healing balm, as we are all impacted by greed, destruction, and disconnection.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Lilla Watson
Listen, believe, respect, and honor what is being called for by Indigenous activists and healers, and pressure those who hold institutional power to do the same.
Learn how to be a genuine ally.