Growing up, my Dad always referred to Thanksgiving as Native American genocide day. We may have gathered with family and feasted on our family’s best traditional Southern dishes, but there was no celebration or belief in the American version of the holiday’s origins. We look at Thanksgiving as one of the few times in the year that we could come together and fellowship with friends and family.
But is that enough?
It is not lost on me that during this year’s Thanksgiving – a day whose history marks the start of centuries of the genocide and oppression of Native American peoples – the world is experiencing concurrent genocides. What is the purpose of a day of thanks when, at the moment, the people of Palestine, Sudan, Congo, and more are living under a genocide and violent occupation of their lands?
This Thanksgiving is a solemn reminder of the complexities of the world and how we must be able to first tell the truth about the injustices happening around us. The enduring myth of Thanksgiving being the start of a peaceful relation between Native American people and European colonizers has overshadowed the reality that Native Americans have endured massacres, cultural appropriation, and racism that persists to this day. To get to the other side and a place of healing, we must first begin to tell the truth and hold space for the pain and suffering of oppressed peoples.
The same is happening now with Palestine, Congo, Sudan, and more. It’s important to be mindful during this holiday season that while the American way is to consume no matter what the (human or financial) expense is, these celebrations came by way of the genocide of Native peoples. Any touchpoint with the holiday must first acknowledge this pain and suffering.
Many of your employees may be grappling with these complexities as you read this. Ensuring that your company or organization’s DEI principles of empathy, compassion, and safety are led with is critical for creating space for the mass suffering we are witnessing.
This Thanksgiving, hold space for the pain of oppressed peoples and the mourning that they have and continue to endure.