Mmmmm turkey and stuffing and pie, oh my! Thanksgiving has always been my very favorite holiday. I love the idea of gathering together with family, friends, and loved ones to celebrate our relationships with one another by sharing a traditional meal. Something about the ritual of it and the yummy, comfort food makes me feel warm and cozy. And I love the idea of intentionally focusing on thankfulness, calling to mind and counting our many blessings, perhaps even sharing them with each other around the table. At the same time, I realize that Thanksgiving as a holiday is deeply problematic, and that the cutesy story we were told as youngsters of the pilgrims and “Indians” sitting down to share a meal together is not only a false one but also an extremely dangerous narrative whose purpose is to hide the painful truth of the true origins of this holiday—the colonization and genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land.
I recently came across an article on the Sojourner’s Facebook page called “Engaging in the Hard Work of Community this Thanksgiving” (link: https://sojo.net/articles/engaging-hard-work-community-thanksgiving) in which Kaitlin Curtice, a Native American Christian author and speaker, writes about Thanksgiving as someone who both celebrates the holiday and sees the real problems inherent in it. She talks about engaging in the process of “decolonization,” which involves not only working to dismantle systems of oppression, but also coming to terms with our own complicity in ongoing oppressive power structures and the way our country continues to “colonize” marginalized groups. This means, in part, getting real about the origins of this beloved holiday. She writes:
“The journey of decolonization begins with telling the truth — about the
origins of this nation’s founding and about the church’s role in the oppression of black, Indigenous, and other people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, disabled people, minorities, and women. It also requires that we take an honest look at our own personal complicity in white supremacy and work to change ourselves and our environment.”
As uncomfortable as this discussion may make us, it seems to me to be a hugely important part of what we have been focusing on these three weeks—how we, personally and as a community, can be real agents of change as we work for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in our church and in our world. The author reminds us that working toward decolonization includes acts both great and small—protests and speaking out and political action as well as personal shifts, changes, awarenesses, and awakenings. Most importantly, we do the work of decolonization in community, by having those difficult conversations, by telling the truth, by speaking truth to power, and by honoring the diversity of all of our stories.
As I write this, an idea occurs to me of how we can bring some awareness, even on a small scale, into our Thanksgiving dinners this year. As we sit down to enjoy the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables we are so fortunate to have in this part of the world, let us perhaps take just a few moments to recognize, to acknowledge, and to think about the migrant workers whose labor brought these treats to our table. Let us challenge ourselves to see them, not as a group of people to be politically scapegoated, but as human beings—mothers and fathers and grandparents working hard to provide for their families, just as we work hard to provide for our own families. Let us open our hearts and minds to voting for policies and laws that foster a better quality of life for them—for medical care, livable wages, equitable housing, a path to citizenship. And then, as we hold these folks in our prayers, let us give deep thanks for our many blessings. I wish you a warm, happy, safe, and bountiful holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!