On this Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2018:
Please try to remember those who might not have anything to be “thankful” for, where thankful means “conscious of benefit received” and “expressing gratitude and relief.” Saying everyone has “something” to be grateful for vocalizes, likely unconsciously, positionalities of comfort and privilege.
Thousands, if not millions, of people are fearful of abusive moms, dads, or partners and are unable to escape because of oppression. The Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist (Heteronormative Ableist) Patriarchy especially traps them. To say they can still express thanksgiving for being alive or for being in the “greatest nation” undermines their struggles and reframes the conversation to make others more comfortable and less complicit.
Another example: perhaps pause the self-congratulatory rhetoric about helping serve the homeless a hot meal at the nearby church or shelter. The United States has failed such people because of its inferior and degrading economic and medical structures. No one should blame them for having an empty list.
Too often people are “thankful” for that which should be automatic. Receiving a living wage. Receiving an affordable, quality education. Receiving respect. These should be automatic. Of course, people should be kind and make “thank you” part of their everyday lexicon, but Thanksgiving Day resituates the rhetorical situation beyond basic thanks to a kind of worship.
Thanksgiving Day, ultimately, is about submissiveness. It teaches people to accept and maintain the status quo and to accept with satisfaction—and expressions of Thanksgiving—slow changes or appearances of change. The fourth Thursday of November is also about capitalism and excess and waste: Eating tons of food. Spending money on presents. Watching parades and football games. Rituals that do not logically, neatly correlate with an idealized day of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving could be a day of social justice and radical activism. Instead of asking what you are thankful for, I want to ask you a different question:
What are you doing today to continue the struggle for freedom?
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda