The mom who put an end to the kindergarten Thanksgiving traditions at two California elementary schools this year has been getting some pretty nasty holiday greetings. Racial epithets, wishes that her daughter (a member of one of the kindergarten classes) would be beat up.
I shared Michelle Raheja’s fight and her comments here on the ‘Derby right before Thanksgiving, opening up the question to the readers of whether the old standby “Pilgrims and Indians” recreations in kindergartens are really racist or not. A host of opinions came down on either side of the fence, but I’m happy to say not one reader took Raheja’s defenseless five-year-old to task.
You can read the original post for the whole story, but basically the professor who spends a portion of her teaching focusing on Native American literature told the school district that the four-decades old event was racist. She likened kids from one school dressing as “Indians” and walking to the other school where kids were dressed as “Pilgrims” to enjoy a meal was like replicating a meeting of the Jews and the Nazis and trying to put a happy face on it.
It’s an emotional issue, to be sure, and one that gave me conflicting feelings (thus my original headline, Are Elementary School Thanksgivings Racist Or Just Outdated?). There are members of my own family who are Native American, who live on reservations, who are feeling today’s affects of yesterday’s injustices visited upon their culture as a whole. We can’t brush the more sordid bits of American history under the rug. On the other hand, these are five year olds learning about multi-culturalism. You do have to simplify things a bit. And dressing up to break bread doesn’t have to be entirely devoid of teachable moments regarding Native American history.
Either way, I thought I wanted to hear other opinions as I tried to make my own. But even in thinking there might be some merit to these sorts of traditions – even if they are updated to be more racially appropriate – I’m with the readers. I didn’t think Michelle Raheja deserved to be have her daugher threatened, to be maligned for her own Native American heritage.
Have we really gone so far that we vent our frustrations on other parents by bashing their kids? I’m not defending the racial comments, but at least they were attacks on an adult. To focus your most hateful thoughts on a child is disturbing, but to do so because you hate their parents’ decisions simply makes no sense.
My daughter is only three at this point, so I am only beginning to navigate the world of “other parents.” I’ve tried my best to separate kids in my daughter’s nursery school from what I might think of their parents. But is this kind of attitude what I have to look forward to?
Image: Los Angeles Times