we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving
the glorification of genocide and colonialism
The massacre of Native Americans is not cause for celebration. Modern day lynchings are not cause for celebration. “Dapper” white nationalists are not cause for celebration. Justice for Black and Indigenous folk in a profoundly white supremacist world? Now that, that’s cause for celebration, and it’s possible.
Three days ago I co-wrote a #NoDAPL solidarity statement with Afrikan Black Coalition staff. Water protectors are still facing concussion grenades, water cannons in below-freezing temperature, rubber bullets, dog kennels, and generally dehumanizing abuse.
Today I was finishing up work when my friend and coworker texted me about the modern day lynching of #WillSims. William Sims was a 28-year-old Black musician who was killed by three white men, two of whom are still on the loose and armed in the Bay Area, California. That means Richmond, Oakland, El Sobrante, San Leandro, and more. They’re white, dangerous, armed, and already killed one of our own for his Blackness.
Despite the fact that this was declared a hate crime — a softer way of saying “lynching,” in this case — somehow the SF Gate found a way to tie in Sims’ [lack of] criminal record and gang affiliations. At 6:28 pm on Wednesday, November 23, 2016, I kindly requested that SF Gate remove the line about Sims that has two implications. As of this writing the line has not been removed, and so we will dive into the implications of what it means and how this ties into Thanksgiving.
Blackness is so tied to criminality and the “negro problem” that Booker T. Washington wrote about is still evident. Just like Mike Brown description as a “demon” and as someone who was “no angel,” was used to justify his murder, Williams Sims has received a similar treatment. Except, in this case the implication is that Sims did not deserve to be killed because he had no gang ties or criminal history.
All of this begs the question to which Black folks already know the answer — had William Sims had gang ties or a criminal history, would that have justified this lynching? Yes. Yes, it would, because you actually don’t need any reason — let alone a credible reason — to lynch a nigger in the United States of America. And no, I’m not talking about the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, I’m talking about the lynchings we have witness all throughout 2016 and those that came before.
Let me say that again:
You actually don’t need any reason — let alone a credible reason — to lynch a nigger in the United States of America
Now that we have that out of the way we can talk about self-defense, a global perspective on human rights, and the glorification of genocide.
I remember in 2015 when I was afraid to even retweet Sankofa Brown’s #WeWillShootBack hashtag. It was not that I thought Black folks weren’t entitled to defend ourselves or determine our own futures, it was fear. I was afraid of what that meant for my family, myself, and anyone I loved. What does an armed struggle look like? What happens to relatives who enlisted in the military? What happens to me as a Black queer man who isn’t familiar with self-defense?
It’s November 2016 now. #BlackLivesMatter rose under Obama, #NoDAPL rose under Obama, and much more will rise under Trump. This shit is not a game. It hasn’t ever been a game, especially if you were Syrian, Palestinian, or even a Sikh or Muslim person living in North America. But many of us are privileged enough to be a part of the American Imperial Machine. Yes, of course, we’re Black. Yes, of course, we’re not accepted. Yes, course, they’re killing us and have been killing us. Nonetheless, there is a small percentage of us who were able to ignore what was happening globally or in our own backyards because we were (and are) educationally, geographically, physically, economically, and politically privileged. Even as we face microaggressions on college campuses or in our own neighborhoods, we still live on to tell it and the warzone we live in is a much different one that those abroad.
The quote by that I’ve been repeating to myself almost every day is very relevant here:
“To die for the revolution is a one-shot deal; to live for the revolution means taking on the more difficult commitment of changing our day-to-day life patterns.” — Francis Beale
Part of my fear with #WeWillShootBack was “well…what if we die in the process?” What if our youth end up like Lil Bobby Hutton? I am always balancing the notion that to live is more revolutionary than to be shortsighted and to die. I often think about what my mom would think and how she would feel if anything avoidable ever happened to me. Earlier this year, though, I committed to this quote. Dying is a one-shot deal. We must change our day-to-day life patterns and be willing to risk many things in our lives if we are really serious about our survival. And typically, when I say “our” I’m referring to Black people. But this isn’t just about the lynchings of Black people, it’s about the repetitious monotony and gore of white violence that affects us all.
Black folks, Indigenous folks, and the many people who fall under the “people of color” umbrella must get serious about our daily reality and arm ourselves. If they’re aiming for us everyday and if our existences are so affected by their scope, then we must at least defend ourselves. This is not a call for retaliation, although you can find plenty of those elsewhere. This is a call to arms, a call to get serious about the rhetoric we’ve become so talented in parroting.
This also means that we must look to each other. We don’t have to like each other to build together. We don’t have to love each other to fight for each other. We do have to watch ourselves for anti-Black racism and similar forms of prejudice that people of color face, but we have to work together. Not on some “Rainbow Coalition” bullshit, but on some “I’m organizing Black folk over here, and in solidarity with Indigenous folks we aren’t going to celebrate Thanksgiving anymore.” And that’s not just an example, that’s something we need to consider. What do we lose by dropping a holiday that is literally about wiping people from their land?
Last year Black Lives Matter talked about the connection between capitalism and Christmas with their #BlackXmas2 protests. We can get into the details of implementation and the politics of Black Friday later, just know that we cannot shame anyone who is unable to participate, especially for economic reasons. My point is that we do not actually lose anything by saying: “No, I am taking a stand by not celebrating Thanksgiving this year as the police attempt to kill Lakota water protectors in North Dakota.”
And finally, I do not exist to coddle white feelings, nor do I exist to educate white people. This being said, I do actually hope white people are paying attention. White people have consistently gone out of their way to target marginalized groups. As the largest “racial” group in the United States, y’all got some damn work to do. In fact, many white folks have gone after their own and continue to do so because “whiteness” is a myth. The KKK does not like Jewish folks, many “ethnic whites,” queers, Black folks, people of color, disabled folks, trans folks, or anyone but “purebred” white nationalists. This whole “alt-right” phrase does not mean that white people are safe, it means that only certain white folks are protected.
What would happen politically if we decided to not celebrating the genocide of Indigenous people?
What would happen to capitalism if we actually stopped shopping for holiday gifts?
What would happen to the “democratic” system if we actually invested in ranked choice voting, the abolition of the electoral college, and more than a two-party system?
This shit does not have to be a fantasy. We can organize. People power is magnificent and the organized truly do win. Let’s think about how we get free, and let’s start by teaching ourselves how to bear arms. We do not need to be violent in response to a violent State that seeks to kill us, but at the very least we must learn to defend ourselves.