Two years ago I came home to spend Thanksgiving Day with my family. I was happy that Ms. Peacemaker and I were able to make the trek from the northwest corner of the union. It took twenty four hours for us to drive all the way from Idaho to St. Louis. But mom had just gotten out of hospital and the rest of the family was making the pilgrimage from other corners of the planet. I bit the bullet, packed Ms. Peacemaker and her son in the car, and drove across the country.
After dinner my family and I got caught up in a conversation revolving around the black community. It didn’t go very well. Unfortunately, the majority of my family felt that the status quo between the black community and the white community was satisfactory and I was simply looking to make problems. Anyone can find racism in anything if they looked for it. Long after the conversation was over I was going to take Ms. Peacemaker for a drive to see the city. One of my siblings’s had a son that wanted to go with us. But my sibling quietly took my nephew to the side and told him not to get in the car with me. I was a trouble maker that needed to be avoided at all cost. Naturally I was hurt. I felt like my siblings and I were going our separate ways. Seeing little reason to stay, less than twenty four hours after arriving in St. Louis the Peacemakers were on our way back to Idaho. That was two years ago.
Today, this Thanksgiving, my most vocal sibling in the discussion from two years ago sat down and had a continuation of the discussion from two years ago. I really didn’t expect much. But a lot has changed in two years. Our conversation started while watching the news a couple of days after the holiday. There was an article about Barack Obama and his nomination of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. The next thing you know we were talking, round two. But, gone was the suspicion that I was way too confrontational in my thinking. This sibling actually listened to me without defending the system with every breath. We talked about Barack Obama and what little it actually means to the black community other than we can teach our children that if they too turn their back on the black community that they can do great things for the racial status quo.
We talked about Reverend Jeremiah Wright who was attacked in an attempt by some people to paint Mr. Obama as an angry, unpatriotic black man. We talked about the fact that when Mr. Wright was being attacked, not a single black celebrity was reported as coming to his defense. We talked about how black celebrities like Bill Cosby garnered so much attention with their ridicule of poor people in the black community. Mr. Cosby helped to defend Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Ruebens when Mr. Rueben was discovered masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida and arrested for indecent exposure. We talked about how Mr. Cosby said, “Whatever [Reubens has] done, this is being blown all out of proportion.” My sibling and I asked each other, where was Mr. Cosby to tell everybody that the attacks against Mr. Wright were being blown out of proportion.
Where was Bill Cosby to speak in Mr. Wright’s defense? Where was Oprah Winfrey? Where was Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, Queen Latifah and the others? Where was T.D. Jakes and Creflo “Gotta Get A” Dollar? Where wee all of these high profile people who say they want black people to care about the black community but are as quiet as church mice to help defend a black man who cared about the black community?
D.L. Hughley made a despicable grab for laughs in his appearance on Jay Leno when he made the suggestion that black people need to get off of Don Imus’ back when Mr. Imus was attacked by many in the black community for his nappy headed ho’s comment against the women’s basketball team of Rutgers University. But Mr. Hughley didn’t say a thing to defend Mr. Wright’s freedom of speech. Mr. Hughley agreed and added that they were some of the ugliest women he has ever seen in his life. Now, Mr. Hughley, with only a GED to his name and no interest in current events or the news, has his own television news show on CNN of all places. My sibling’s eyes went wide with surprise on this bit of information.
And like many people who may be concerned about the black community, my sibling asked the question I’ve been asked a hundred times over, what is the solution? We talked about a few solutions. But the bottom line is that the black community is so fractured and we are so bamboozled that our first inclination whenever we hear someone ridicule the establishment is to defend the establishment. I bit my tongue not to refer to our conversation two years ago.
I spoke of my bottom line theory that more black people who care about the black community need to return to the black neighborhoods. Black people with good paying jobs have a tendency to take their good income out of the urban black neighborhood to live in less black neighborhoods. Black people may have contributed to the weakness of the traditional black neighborhood. Instead of working to help keep black neighborhoods strong we perpetuate the hype that we have to get away and start somewhere else. And when we abandon our houses in the urban black community to live elsewhere, others will came right behind us to live in these abandoned homes, getting these beautiful old architecture structures for pennies on the dollar, while black people are going into significant debt with six figure mortgages to live the American dream.
And when we allow ourselves to be manipulated into accumulating debt in a perpetual pursuit in the accumulation of materialism and trinkets for our immediate gratification, we no longer have the time or desire to address issues of racial disparity because we need our jobs and we need to conform in order to maintain our substandard of living. In the process, our traditional black neighborhoods go down the tubes because the majority of what’s left are people too focused on individual materialism to realize the importance of living as a unified community.
I was told that’s not going to work for all of us and I had to agree. But there is no single solution. In battle, rarely is a single strategy used against an opponent. There are a series of tools used. A frontal assault, a flank assault, distractions, traps, attacks from the rear, from above, from below, and from anywhere an opponent may least expect it. But too often when we talk about countering racial disparity, we want to ridicule each other for not following what we believe is to be the best strategy. If you think a boycott is the solution I’m with you. But don’t make it a one day boycott against a faceless corporation. A boycott works best when people stay away until change is made. A one day boycott is nothing more than a holiday.
If black people actually investing in the black neighborhoods with our hard earned money then reward businesses that do business in the black community. Some black people will let a single bad experience with one black business person change their attitude against all black businesses. But how often do we let a bad experience with a white business impact our willingness to do business with other white business people?
Why do black people buy houses or rent in non black areas? How come we don’t do our best to buy homes in the black neighborhoods? I know it’s a sacrifice. But if we want things to change we have to be willing to put our money, our selves, our families, where our mouths are.
My sibling gave me the impression that I was talking some sense. It was much different than our conversation a couple of years ago where it was okay for some people to suffer as long as the majority do well through the system. Back then, it didn’t matter if others didn’t have healthcare coverage or adequate employment or access to a good education. Two years ago I had the impression that my family really didn’t care what happened to some black people. The overall impression was that my family believed that more than likely people at the bottom did something to deserve being at the bottom rung of society.
But in our conversation from the other day, that attitude seems to have been replaced with more compassion for people in the black community than I ever thought possible. Whatever the reason, I’m glad. I would have been happy to have seen people in my family just listen to me without getting angry like we did a few years ago. Today’s conversation was much more than I ever thought possible. We were more in sync in our thought processes than I ever thought was possible. I’m really looking forward to our conversation two years from now.
Although not exactly an official holiday, because so many take the day after Thanksgiving off, Black Friday is recognized as the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Retailers often decorate for the Christmas season weeks even months before. But nevertheless, many retailers open very early, typically five in the morning or earlier, and offer door buster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. The term Black Friday is supposed to have originated as a reference to the heavy traffic on that day and the beginning of the period in which many retailers are operating in the black and actually earning a profit.
In many places it is not uncommon to see news stories of shoppers lined up hours before stores with big sales open. Once the store opens, shoppers will stampede like credit card carrying cattle afraid that the stores may have only a few of the big draw items. Local media often promotes the frenzy and will cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased but questionably affordable items.
Here in St. Louis, the local news reported that there was a gentleman camping outside one of the local Best Buy stores before the store even closed Wednesday night. The Best Buy will open about five so this guy waited about thirty six hours and for what? If this man had a real life he would’ve kept things in perspective, kept the need to consume balanced with his need to continue with the rest of his life. But the need to perpetuate the hype, the need to add to the frenzy, the need to help perpetuate business as usual takes precedence over the exercise of common sense.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the young man camping outside the Best Buy is a store employee. The store manager wants to manufacture the idea people need to come to this particular store to get the real deals so a deal was struck where this guy could get something in return whether it’s being paid or exchanged for time off or something else that might not be worth the temporary life stoppage. But someone driving buy or hearing about the early retail camper on the news like I did would be influenced to think that they have to get in line as well in order to have a better chance of going broke or going into debt.
All year long we have been hearing about the condition of our economy and how people need to be a lot more careful with their spending. People need to save money and make sure they have enough wealth on hand to weather any hidden financial storms that might be coming our way. All that logical advice gets thrown out the window. Yes we need to be careful with our finances, but this is a relatively brand new tradition to help retailers drum up the business that helps the retailers. It is probably in somebody’s directive somewhere that the local news must promote retailers if the television station wants retailers to advertise on their channel.
This morning, many of us have forgotten the lessons we have spent the past year learning and have made the choice to continue as if our lives as retail consumers will continue indefinitely. Even with talk about the domestic auto industry collapsing and the devastating economic ripple has the potential to affect one out of ten of us directly and everyone with absolutely few exceptions indirectly, we will continue to spend and borrow and foolishly give away our money, the only thing that the majority of people value about us.
We know we need money to survive and to prepare for a better future for our family. But instead of spending money wisely and investing in our future we are spending money on cutting edge electronics and popular toys that will be obsolete by the time they’re carted outside to a waiting vehicle. Money that could have been used for the purchase of health insurance or life insurance or an education or whatever that has the real potential to improve and/or maintain a standard of living over the long term will instead by used to buy a trinket. It might be an expensive trinket, but it is a trinket nevertheless.
Yesterday, many of us gathered together around the dining room table to give genuine heart felt thanks for our good fortune. Today many of us are willing to line up at some retailers front door for our chance to blow that good fortune away. That’s okay. God will bless us with enough good fortune next year so that we can blow it all away again. It’s tradition. And despite whatever we learn over the year that says a new tradition of poverty might be in our future, until it comes, it’s business as usual.
Before I get too deep in this article I just want to take a moment to say that I’d like to give thanks to god for all he has done for me and for others through me. I thank god for being here today and I pray to god with thanks for my health and the health of my family. I give thanks to god for giving me the strength and resources to face each and every trial and tribulation that god uses to test my character. We give thanks for the food on our table as well as the food not on our table. We give thanks to god for our health even when we are struck with disease and conditions, some times devastating, because we know no matter how bad we may have it, it can always get worse.
We give thanks to god and do our best to stroke his ego because we know that every time we see a rainbow in the sky we are reminded that god has a history of being a vicious killer who could wash the vast majority of humanity away with torrential rains. We give thanks that god spares us from the angel of death that could come and take away our first born sons. We give thanks to god and give him a cut of our prosperity through our local church because we know that if we fail to make payments to god and give him a piece of the pie that we open ourselves to misfortune. It’s not tithing, it is protection money.
A lot of people do a lot of conspicuous prayer of thanks to the almighty. Back when I used to go to church with my Pentecostal pa or my Presbyterian ma we would start every get together for worship with a prayer of thanks. I watch football and see so many players drop to their knees in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. I don’t watch much baseball any more. But I do remember the occasional home run hitter touching themselves in the catholic cross pattern or kissing the golden cross trinket hanging around their neck as they started their run around the bases. On the news, one doesn’t have to wait long to see somebody whose house just burnt down to the ground give thanks to god because that person and his or her entire family got out with their lives.
We give thanks to god for not kicking our ass the way he kicked somebody else’s ass. We give thanks to god for not striking our family with a child with severe mental problems. But then we will turnaround and tell the people with an autistic child that god wouldn’t have given them that child with mental problems if they couldn’t handle it. We hear stories of people having their baby shot to death while they slept in their cribs from a stray bullet from a gun several blocks away. God wouldn’t allow a five hundred megaton incendiary bomb to fall on children’s heads unless they could handle it. God would not have allowed their entire world to be turned upside down and utterly destroy their lives unless he had a reason. We know that god wouldn’t give anyone more war than they can handle. God works in mysterious ways you know. Let’s give thanks that we are not part of that mystery.
It might be a mystery, but there’s always a reason god lets one or a few benefit so greatly from destruction while others are devastated. We all know that god wouldn’t give anyone more trouble than they can handle. But is the opposite true? Would god give god give anyone more success than they could handle? Let’s put our hands together in a prayer of thanks to god that none of us has to worry about suffering from more success than they can handle.
God is a very busy spiritual entity. A lot of people need to come to terms with how insignificant our lives are to the Supreme Being. God isn’t waiting in heaven to hear our praise and thanks in words of prayers because they are like music to his all powerful, all listening ears. God isn’t a spiritual puppet master trying to figure out exactly how much pressure he can apply to send each and every one of us to the brink. Why in the world would he be testing us anyway? That’s just stupid for someone who is supposed to already know everything. That’s not mystery but stupidity. God works in stupid ways! But let’s give thanks for the stupidity regardless.
Many of us have been taught that we praise god through the good and the bad. We’re supposed to praise god at every meal and at every gathering and at every morning and before we lay to rest. We’re supposed to praise god for every ass kicking as well as every act of alleged spiritual largess. But god doesn’t need or want or even listens to empty praise or prayers of thanks for every little thing that happens in life. Believe it or not god knows we go to bed and he knows we have to eat. The last thing that god needs to do is listen to a billion people saying thank you every minute something routine happens in their life. Rote prayers of praise and thanks from humanity are pretty much pointless. I pray that the Supreme Being of unlimited intelligence figured that out by now.
My Mom left town a few days before the Thanksgiving Holiday. I dropped her off at the airport so she could go across the country to spend the holiday season with some distant relatives. Just before she left she asked me to prepare the Thanksgiving diner for her grandkids, my nieces and nephews in college and high school.
My Mom is seriously old school. Even though she is very aware of the condition of the black community and she has her own understanding to its roots and causes, my Mom wants to make sure everyone enjoys the holidays the way tradition says to. If my Mom had stayed in town she would’ve had the biggest spread imaginable for a nearly eighty year old black woman that lives simply and alone. So about nine in the morning on Thanksgiving Day my girlfriend and I are in my Mom’s house getting ready to put a turkey in the oven. We sat and ate dinner as a family about three that afternoon.
Like families do when they get together on Thanksgiving Day we talked as we ate. The conversation rambled across a variety of subjects. Somebody wanted to announce their shopping plans for the next day. One of my nieces mentioned the fact that all she wanted was to get more Disney paraphernalia. To prove her devotion to the Disney Corporation she demonstrates her Disney themed ring tones on her cell phone. Her sister and brother were there to testify on her behalf. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Why do you love Disney so much? Quick, without thinking name a black Disney character. Name someone who is black who works for Disney? Name something Disney does for the black community? James Earl Jones and Robert Guillaume from the Lion King come quickly to mind. Whoopi Goldberg, the black actress who convinced her white boyfriend to show up for a news conference in black face, is another black person with questionable affiliation to the black community.
But who were the main voices for this African based story? Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement fame and Mathew Broderick did the voices for the main character, the lion Simba with blue eyes. But how many black people have blue eyes? For every black person lending their voice to this move there were more than four white people giving their voice. And if the complete credits of writers, producers, people who worked in the production department, art department, sound department, visual effects, camera and electrical, animation department, the editing department, the music department, and other assistants associated with this black movie from Disney and the ratio of black people who participated in the film to white people is more like one out of forty. More white people have a connection to this most African of movies from Disney.
One of my nieces in high school looked to be on the verge of tears in her eyes. “But I love Disney,” was all she had to say. Her brother added his opinion to the conversation. “That was Disney then. But it’s different now.” But what makes it different? In essence my nephew, who is also in high school, replied that it’s the twenty first century and nobody thinks that way any more. If Disney was still racist black people wouldn’t love it like they do.
Black people love Disney because they have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the marketing and propaganda that says people love Disney. It’s not that Disney is such a supporter of the black community or black people. Disney is Disney because it supports white America and white people love the company. And in order for black people to have some semblance of being American we usually do our best to emulate and plug into the values of white America. The white community loves Disney. Disney propaganda supports white values. Therefore, Disney supports American values. And in order for black people to have American values black people must love Disney. So goes the misinformation of what it means to be an American.
Another niece, the one in college, added her voice to the conversation, “I don’t care. I love Disney and that’s all that’s important to me.” My other nieces and nephews laughed, a little more enthusiastically than normally in my opinion. The conversation drifted back to shopping and other superfluous topics. And so goes the mindset of the future representatives of the black community on Thanksgiving Day.
If I had to guess I would say that the mindset exhibited by these young blacks is pretty typical of the black community at large. Our children are more concerned with towing the line with values deeply rooted in concepts associated with assimilation and racism rather than values rooted in true black identity and black self determination. The two are no where near being mutually compatible. But if our children had to make a choice the vast majority would only care about whatever marketing tells the public to care about.
If the black community is to have a future then the black community needs to instill into the black children the values necessary for them to develop a conscience rooted in the black community. Dressing the black child’s room in Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse paraphernalia is akin to telling the black child this is what is important to your life, to your future, to your black community. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Another Thanksgiving is coming and people are knee deep in the holiday hoopla. Many people are spending mega amounts at the grocery store. More people are trying to travel across the country to get to family. More people are spending another holiday trying to adhere to the programming that says we must gorge ourselves on food around our family. Somewhere along the way we’re supposed to follow the tradition of our European ancestors and give thanks for the bountiful good fortune we’ve had this past year.
There is little doubt that our European ancestors may have had much to celebrate. They were able to dupe the natives in the land that became known as North America into helping them survive in their new land. The Europeans gave thanks for their survival while at the same time giving thanks for having the cold blooded capacity to give their benefactors who helped them survive small pox laden blankets in an early example of germ warfare. The Europeans were also planning to take the land as personal property that the Native Americans had enjoyed as a community resource. While the Europeans were looking to tame the nature of the land to their will the natives of America lived in total harmony with their environment for many millennia. The white people in their new home had a great deal to give thanks for because they had literally changed the world. The propaganda for Thanksgiving says that the natives and the Europeans expatriates celebrated giving spiritual thanks together. But the reality is that we now celebrate the subjugation and transformation of the Native American’s land and the subjugation of the Natives Americans themselves.
It is disappointing that so many people ignorantly celebrate this holiday without a thought as to its true meaning. Yes the people who are more likely to associate themselves as European descendents would celebrate their ancestors destroying the Native American’s world. But it is downright appalling that Africans and people of other ethnicities celebrate the success of these early Europeans without thought. Just imagine the furor if there was a holiday celebrating the Europeans coming to Africa and the commencement of the slave trade. It could be called Liberation Day. The propaganda developed for Liberation Day will show Europeans coming down the ramp from their Liberation ships with big happy smiles and the enslaved black people going up the ramps with their big happy smiles. The Liberation Day propaganda will have the black enslaved people happily liberating the white people from having to work in the fields. The tradition will be that after a day of toiling in the field people will go into the big house to have a meal of southern cooking and hanging little black people from the Liberation tree.
Now it is a given that a lot of people would actually love the idea of the facetious Liberation Day. There are way too many people with a white mindset who actually enjoy the idea of white privilege at the expense of the black community. But there are other people who would actually think that a holiday that celebrates the beginning of the subjugation of black people would be reprehensible. Most people who have some sense of human decency would be appalled at the idea of a holiday to celebrate the birth of slavery. At least they would be appalled in public. Who knows how people would respond in private where so many believe that closet racism is okay.
Regardless, year after year people in America and Americans all over the world celebrate the subjugation and betrayal of the Native American by the Europeans without a care in the world. Every year we tune into the news networks that inform us that traveling this holiday season is expected to be the busiest ever. We get tips on how to move quickly through the airports and how to safely prepare for the navigation through all the security check points. We get tips on how to squeeze extra mileage out of our cars to get better gas mileage. Every year we hear stories on new recipes and ways to prepare our turkey birds or the pineapple laden hams. Every year we tune into the news to see the President pardon the White House turkey and every year we are reminded that the President wouldn’t pardon an innocent black man in Texas convicted on the most circumstantial evidence. And every year we dismiss the fact that Thanksgiving Day marks the end of life as the Native American knew it.
Would it be better if we never celebrated the Native American’s subjugation? Without a doubt the answer should be a resounding yes. But asking people to give up their Thanksgiving traditions is like asking someone to cut off their arms. The traditional entitlements associated with celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday are not up for negotiation. Ask someone their opinion on the subject and you’ll hear a whole litany of reasons why things should continue, “Yes it’s bad what happened to the Indians. But what can you do about it? I’m just along for the ride. It’s just the way it is. I would give it up but I like spending time with my family. Hey, I didn’t take their land. Why should my family and I have to pay for it now? I like the time off.”
So in another day or so the vast majority of Americans will be gorging ourselves on all the Thanksgiving fixings and whooping it up with family as the NFL does its Thanksgiving thing. Most of us will bow our heads and give thanks as a family for all the good fortune we’ve had for the past year. But the good fortune that we celebrate is recognized on a day that exist as the foundation of Native American subjugation. Thanksgiving is a day of infamy for the Native American community. Most people would like to think that they would not want to celebrate the subjugation of others. But in practice it appears that the reality is very different. We would not hesitate to celebrate the subjugation of others if we could get some personal benefit out of it. Good thing Liberation Day never caught on. Too bad Thanksgiving did. Happy Subjugation Day!