You Want me to Thank Who, Now?

thanksgiving-mealI’m pretty sure at this point in our lives we’ve encountered a news site, blog post, or chatty person telling us not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because it perpetuates the myth of friendly colonists that made nice with the indigenous people of North America. We know this isn’t true. Enslavement, rape, disease-ridden blankets, and the robbing of their native language are only among the few of the tortures Native Americans faced upon the arrival of the colonists. Yet America finds it totally o.k. to acknowledge a day for families and friends to come together, to indulge in a feast of food, to close banks, schools, and many businesses for the day, and worst of all, encourage us all to be “thankful” for what we have. Many people choose to blindly consume until lethargy on this day, marking the importance on a feathered bird and disregard how this day even came about.

But to be completely fair, most of these articles/posts/soap box speeches have been from people who are not of Native American descent. I wouldn’t imagine any Native American individual would argue that the seizure of their land was a good thing, but there’s light to shed on the truth to Thanksgiving. Did pilgrim and native sit down after a collaborative harvest season to enjoy their splendor? No, but there is history of civility amongst the two communities (at least at the beginning) where the English relied on the natives for survival, and the natives aided in their survival.

Many Native American communities acknowledge Thanksgiving in a similar manner to the Euro-American holiday, but the idea of thanks is conceptualized differently. There’s a Christian back force behind Thanksgiving, which isn’t present in Indigenous celebration. The latter gives thanks to where we came from and we they are, namely in mother and mother earth.  Rather than celebrating a Thanksgiving, there is a state of thanksgiving in a spiritual sense that does bring together communities and families (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com). However, this is not to say that every person of Native American descent it pro-Thanksgiving. There are many whtumblr_mdwao0B9Hj1qj171uo1_500o refuse to celebrate the day, and instead use the time as a Day of Mourning.

Now I’ll pose a few questions for you. What do you make of the day? Do you have a family get-together that’s unrelated to the American Thanksgiving? Do you refuse to recognize the American holiday and take the side of anti-Thanksgiving? Do you acknowledge the fact that this country was built on the aid and eventual abuse of the Indigenous populations? How do you define the day now? A day of mourning? A day of commemoration? A day of honor? A day of condolence?

With the acknowledgment that this country was built from the spilled blood of the indigenous, we breathe life into their descendants. We give them back a stolen story, and although nothing could ever make right the horrible wrongs that occurred, we can give them the respect they deserve.

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

There are so many indicators that remind me that winter is coming: The evening sky dims darker much quicker, the leaves tone down to browns and yellows, the Starbucks cups turn into a glowing red… And with this transition comes “cuddle weather.” So maybe it’s the weather letting me know I’m single, or maybe it’s the pictures on Instagram with my friends and their significant others, or my family asking me yet again “So have you found your future Mrs. yet?”

Anyway, yes, relationships are on the mind.

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And what I’ve been commonly hearing recently, probably due to those dreaded get-together family holiday parties coming up, is the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” And I don’t mean because some people have quite literally forgotten how to formally introduce someone. I’m talking about how you introduce your partner who is of another culture to a family that is less than accepting.

It would be a lie if I said racism, prejudice, and cultural judgment are dead. Even though families aren’t as traditionally oriented as they were 10 or 20 years ago, there’s still a value placed among families to date within “our own.” We see this in the interaction of parent to toddler with remarks like “oh what a cute little toddler, you’re going to find a beautiful Latina for a bride one day!” “I can’t wait to see you married in a big beautiful Christian church one day!”

It’s in this multicultural, socially evolving world we live in where we experience people completely different from ourselves. There’s this clash between personal and family life where I hesitate to link together. In this sense, my question has often been: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” When you’re a queer Latino brought up in a traditional Catholic household that’s bringing home someone completely different, there’s a little embarrassment to say “yea… all those racist, heterosexist remarks… that’s where I come from.”

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And to be fair, yes, families of color that were oppressed had to learn that it was only safe to date amongst the same color. There are valid reasons that some families reinforce these ideals, also seen in religious pedagogy of finding the ideal partner that understands what values we’re supposed to follow. And it’s unfortunate that we often use the excuse: “well it’ll just be easier to date someone Christian/Asian/the opposite gender (if you’re sexually fluid and not strictly interested in only one gender) because it’ll ‘fit’ better.”

Realize that an intimate partner isn’t a piece that’s supposed to fit into your puzzle. They’re someone who will offer romantic companionship and be a person you can connect to in ways you can’t with your family. When my sister brought home a Japanese young man, my parents were initially surprised, and let down when they asked “is he at least Catholic?” They went through a phase where they partook in some offensive comments while he was in the other room. But after a while when it was clear that he made my sister genuinely happy, they realized he was part of the family already and they could not reject him without rejecting my sister. THEN I politely taught them why the language they used is not acceptable.

So to answer the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” Tell your family about your partner before-hand, and do the same with your partner. Wear something nice, ask your partner to do the same, and then ask your family to do the same. Know that each person in that room loves you (or at least really likes you and it might turn into something even more serious later on) and bring together your family and personal lives.