I often feel really conflicted about how to engage with the colonial holiday Thanksgiving, which celebrates the beginning of what would become an imperial and genocidal regime that wiped out millions of indigenous American people and continues to try to decimate the traditions and histories of many people I care deeply about.
I think Thanksgiving also marks the moment when my ancestors sacrificed their souls and their humanity in exchange for material wealth that they didn’t even know how to appreciate. It is so hard to imagine what could have led white people to believe that we are entitled to entire continents, to the lives and service of entire nations, to the cultures people spent centuries creating. The only explanation I have is that white people have given up their humanity, the ability to feel empathy, in exchange for a parasitic form of power.
And I think I still feel the residual effects of this soul-death. Its the way I can walk past a homeless person on the sidewalk without immediately stopping to see if I can help. Its the fear of talking to strangers on the bus. Its the ability to pack up every year or two and travel, and forget to call my friends to tell them I love them. Because when you sacrifice your soul you don’t just give up the capacity to feel guilt, but the capacity to feel real love.
I have so much to be grateful for, including the time off of work to spend with my family, to whom I owe so much. In connecting with my family this week I will be working to heal the wounds that our ancestors created and to melt away the numbness that has allowed me and all those who benefit from colonial white supremacy to commit atrocities. I will be working to listen, to learn from my parents, and to learn from myself. I will be thanking my parents for all they gave up for me, all they’ve shared with me, and all their perseverance in raising a pretty challenging kid. Particularly I will be working to build a genuine commitment to the people in my life, that will keep me rooted and accountable. I will be working to learn what love means.
And to that end, I will also be fasting tomorrow, in acknowledgement of the violence that my ancestors have perpetrated, the continuing violence of white supremacy, and my participation in this process. I will be mourning the takeover of the Ohlone land, where I am a settler, and the Miwok land where I was raised.
I will be celebrating, too. I’ll be celebrating a future in which land is returned to the people it was stolen from, in which Native sovereignty is respected. I’ll be celebrating a future in which white people remember their humanity and not only apologize for but make reparations (to the extent this is possible) for colonization. I will be celebrating a future with no Dakota Access Pipeline, no Keystone Pipeline, no school to prison pipeline, no pipelines. I’ll be celebrating a future in which every day is a day to be with family, and to give thanks.
Celebrating the future might mean making sacrifices now. I believe it is worth it. I believe that we can win.
PS: Decolonial work needs to be happening year round, not just on the holidays that remind us of our complicity in genocide. This is one of many helpful resources for showing up in indigenous solidarity work.
Accomplices Not Allies