Off campus, Thanksgiving is mainly known for turkey, football and family reunions. On campus, the holiday is about racism, colonialism and imperialism.
In North Carolina Lauryn Mascareñaz, a director at the Wake County school system’s Office of Equity Affairs, tweeted this month that she did not want to see students dressed in “Indian” feathers or clothes. She rejected this tradition, a hallmark of school plays and Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, as “cultural appropriation.” and instead urged teachers to tell “students the truth about the country’s relationship with indigenous people.”
Wake County, which includes the capital city of Raleigh, is North Carolina’s second largest school district, with about 160,000 students.
Mascareñaz’s message caught the attention of A.P Dillion, a parent of a Wake County student and who blogs at Lady Liberty 1885 who pointed out that Office of Equity Affairs costs Wake County taxpayers more than $507,000 a year.
“Meanwhile, teachers complain that Wake County does not give them the supplies they need, that their schools are in disrepair, that the trailers which were supposed to be temporary are falling apart and that they more money in their check,” Dillon wrote.
Meanwhile, across the country, a document released by an academic center at the University of Colorado-Boulder is calling for “Thanksgiving 2.0.” This effort includes a “toolkit” of documents which can be used in “hopes of reminding people to have more compelling conversations, making Thanksgiving relevant to contemporary environmental events and honoring the best of the holiday season.”
The updated version was published by Rhetoric Seminar course within the Department of Communication at CU Boulder. The school did not respond to a request for a comment on this story.
The Age of Awareness website features an array of materials aimed at “decolonizing Thanksgiving.” It includes a range of articles, including:
- “Ten Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving about Social and Environmental Justice”
- “Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way”
- “A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families”
The website also features this guiding-spirit quote: “I want to make this Thanksgiving more deeply anti-racist, ecologically rooted, and anti-imperialist…Repeating the holiday with no acknowledgement of the intolerance in its history feels delusional at best, if not actively perpetuating oppression.”
Not that long ago a different vision of Thanksgiving prevailed — even in Boulder.
“We are not really celebrating the real actors and the real characters,” said Chris Lewis, then- American Studies instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder said in a 2009 interview. “we’re celebrating or re-enacting a union between Indians and English peoples that we would like to think somehow symbolizes the hope of American society and the hope of freedom and unity in that society.”
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