I kept stuffing my face with popcorn because I was so furious I didn’t know what else to do. I thought if I kept chucking the popcorn in my mouth I could remain calm. I focused on the kernels and the texture of the stale popcorn. Before I knew it, the popcorn disappeared. I thought of the corn and where it may have originated. I doubted the popcorn was made from fair trade corn kernels.
The children in my son’s class had handed out popcorn to us parents before the film to simulate the movie theater experience as well as highlight the colonial crop of maize, popular with modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations. We sat on the commercial-grade carpeted floor with our kids and watched the short skit regarding the Mayflower voyage that had been pre-recorded with our sweet first graders.
I slowly looked around like a conventional Indian bride peering at her wedding crowd, but none of the other parents looked like they would explode. They were enjoying themselves, the time spent with their kids carefully plotted in their Outlook calendars away from the ho-hum of the everyday. I blended right in. I appeared like everyone else to the extent possible. But I looked for some signs of uneasiness in their eyes, hands, and facial expressions. I didn’t sense any. I couldn’t be the only one who noticed that only the white kids were the settlers, and the black, yellow, and brown kids were the Natives and slaves. And that this inept drama class video of the Mayflower was drenched in racism and was teaching racism. It wasn’t a tepid stretch. I was being clobbered by the high tide of racism.
My mind was numb.
The Europeans are better? Is that why they invaded the Americas? Their uppity self-serving Manifest Destiny? The settlers were the heroes and the colonizers. The colored kids, including my own son, were the trouble makers – the Natives who wouldn’t leave their land, and the slaves who would dare to rebel. They had bows and arrows against their guns and were dying from illnesses. The casting was flawless.
It wasn’t that much of a leap. I was deconstructing the seemingly innocuous skit. It was imperceptive to read it any other way — at least for me.
Thanksgiving is not about being thankful. It’s about the theft of land or as the Anglo-American legal tradition expounds — about the discovery and conquest.
Thanksgiving is about genocide, disease, slavery, dispossession, capitalism and the origins of the modern carceral state and rampant class and racial inequality. But that’s too much for my son’s first-grade drama class.
It’s actually not.
Desegregation started in first grade following the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. To start from the beginning, earlier in the educational experience makes it easier of a transition, lessens the blow than to begin in the middle.
Erasing the pain of the past does not lessen its impact.
Donald J. Trump had recently been elected president in November 2016 when the above-described classroom incident occurred. My emotions were too raw, and my intellectual pain of the historical genocide was merciless. I ended up switching my son’s school because of my schedule, the distance, and could not bring myself to pay for a private institution, whereas a parent I was made to feel less than because of the differences of my skin and my faith. Sure my kid was years of his grade level for reading, but his drama class was centuries behind in understanding white fragility and the price of privilege.
Sure my kid was years ahead of his grade level for reading, but his drama class was centuries behind in understanding white fragility and the price of privilege. New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote about how she struggled to find a school for her own daughter in a segregated city.
New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote about how she struggled to find a school for her own daughter in a segregated city.
Yet this November I don’t care what happens for the Thanksgiving programs. I’m actually thankful that Trump might actually be impeached. Even if he doesn’t. It’s that thought that carries me.