Breaking the Socialization Around American Holidays: A Parent’s Dilemma
I’m in a weird place as a parent and an activist; at what point do I talk to my daughter about the truth behind Thanksgiving or any other holiday draped in an ugly American truth?
How do I celebrate the holidays with my daughter, when she is so excited and I have to put my disgust away?
I mean, she’s only three so our conversation so far about Thanksgiving is not that deep. I asked her what she learned in school, and if there was anything about the “story” of the holiday it must not have been much because all she could recall was the food.
I don’t necessarily need to explain the displacement and erasure of Native American people (just yet), however I can’t help but feel I am contributing to that erasure by my participation in the holiday just so I can “normalize” life for her. As much as it tugs at my heartstrings, honestly, I struggle with the idea of not having her involved in what would be considered mainstream American (Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, Fourth of July, etc…).
[Related: Native American Girls Share the Truth Behind Thanksgiving]
A couple weeks ago she pointed out the American flag and said it is her “favorite flag!” I asked why and she didn’t have an answer leading me to understand the power behind socialization in the U.S. We see and do things a certain way from the time there are institutional authority figures present (like teachers), and without being given the objective truth behind these symbols and ideas and events we just let them be – contributing to the narrative America wants us to push in order for the system to survive. It’s easier to let things be when we cloak everything in consumerism.
She might not know the bloody history behind Thanksgiving (I think at most she needs to be aware of the parties involved), but for now and always it just is because of the food and family that she will associate with the holiday moving forward.
I keep asking myself, “At what point do I step in and challenge that for her? Is it wrong for me to feel that it is my responsibility to do so?” The other side of this argument is that to do so would be “brainwashing” my kid into anarchy or something extreme, but really I just want the young Black woman she grows up to be to challenge the world around her and contribute to justice. Is that too much to ask?
How different would things be if we learned the truth behind Thanksgiving in our K-12 education? How different can things be if we start this now for our kids?