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White Americans: If You Truly Believe in Thanksgiving Values, Stand with Standing Rock

Standing Rock and Thanksgiving

Instagram: @bombshellmel

Traditionally we have been taught that Thanksgiving is a holiday about sharing, gratitude  and cross-cultural communion. That’s the story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans, right? In 1621, the Wampanoag Indians, like Squanto, helped the Pilgrims learn how to survive and farm in the “New World.” In celebration of their first bountiful harvest, Thanksgiving was born and European “settlers” made peace with indigenous people and lived happily ever after.

But where’s the lie? @Bombshellmel’s Instagram meme states the hypocrisy best. If Thanksgiving is truly a time to celebrate an alliance made with Native Americans, then why is the U.S. government inflicting more pain, terrorism and environmental warfare on our Native brothers and sisters protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline as we speak?

Related: Standing Rock Check-In Protest Should Remind Us Of All The Other Ways We Can Help

On Sunday November 21, hundreds of Standing Rock protesters were injured by the police, who used freezing water canons, rubber bullets and tear gas on those who are defending the water supply of ALL Americans. The water the protesters was attacked with was so cold, as low as 23 degrees, that many were treated for hypothermia. According to NBC News, “Between 200 and 300 people were transported late Sunday night to a gymnasium on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation for treatment for hypothermia, facial and hand wounds, and other minor injuries. “

The very fact that children are taught that Thanksgiving was birthed out of brotherhood among Native Americans and European “settlers” while the political majority is currently condoning or turning a blind eye to the acts of terrorism indigenous people currently face, reminds us that our beloved country is rotten at its core. It’s a kind of cognitive dissonance, which psychologists describe as:

“The mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values.”

Dr. Joy Degruy explains this troubling phenomenon beautifully in her book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, connecting cognitive dissonance to the bolstering of structural racism through collective amnesia and outright lying. Wrong is done, then lied about and eventually erased, all in order to preserve white fragility and lo and behold, white supremacy prevails.

American citizens, white ones in particular, must become comfortable with telling the truth — because historical fabrications only empower oppressive forces to give the world shit and call it roses. And like Miss Celie from The Color Purple wisely once said:

Standing Rock and Thanksgiving

“Everything you done to me, already done to you.”

Here’s a message to white Americans: If you truly believe in the values of Thanksgiving you were taught in childhood, and continue to pass on to your children, then put truth and integrity in your words and beliefs and  Stand with Standing Rock. America’s native people need your economic and political support, not your played-out fairy tales.

Click on this link to learn about 10 ways you can get involved.


Heather was born in Chicago and raised in Pasadena, California and proudly claims Oakland as her adopted home. She has a B.A. in African-American Studies from Smith College (proud Smithie), and a Masters in Education Leadership from New York University. Heather's spent the past decade working in the field of educational equity and advocacy. She currently teaches Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University and manages a blog called What's Happening Black Oakland? She also contributes to Blavity, a blog for black millennials. Heather's committed to writing interesting and relevant stories that aren't being covered by the mainstream media, while straying away from the single story that is usually imposed on people of color. In her free time she enjoys traveling and going to live shows.

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