Ignorant Parents In Danger Of Raising Ignorant Children

So here’s the story as I understand it.  Every year at this elementary school they celebrate Thanksgiving by having the kids dress up as pilgrims and “indians”.  Parents, mainly those of Native descent, have begun to object to this for several reasons.  1. It’s a completely inaccurate portrayal of what went on when the pilgrims got here.  (I am also kind of sick of the way we lie to kids about history, only to have to reteach it later.  Columbus discovered America, anyone?  Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves?  But I digress.) 2. The “indian” outfits are stupid and based on racist stereotypes, anyway.  All they were asking is that they have the Thanksgiving stuff without the ignorant dress up time.  The school board agreed and said that the feast should happen without costumes.

And then.

Well, most of you who read this blog can guess what happened.

Condit Elementary School parent Michelle Raheja said she was not prepared for the backlash she got from helping to write an e-mail to a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.

She and her daughter have been harassed as a result, she said Wednesday.

“It was a private message to one kindergarten teacher,” Raheja said. “She did not ask me if she could circulate it to others or circulate it to the principal. I don’t think she was ill-intentioned.”

On Tuesday, numerous parents and their children dressed in American Indian and Pilgrim costumes to protest a Claremont Unified School District decision to have a Thanksgiving feast without the costumes that have been traditional for decades.

Another group of protesters, many younger and of American Indian descent, carried signs that said “Racism,” “No Thanks No Giving,” “Respect” and “Don’t Celebrate Genocide.”

Raheja said she and about 15 to 20 parents in the school helped write the private e-mail message about their concerns with the dress in the Thanksgiving feast to a Condit elementary teacher. She said the e-mail was redistributed without her knowledge.

At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, “did a war dance around my daughter.” The parent then told her daughter and others to “go to hell,” she said.

Let’s pause here a moment.  A war dance.  A WAR DANCE, PEOPLE.

What the fuck kind of ass do you have to be to tell a 5 year old to go to hell?  The same kind of ass who would do a “war dance” around one.

I don’t advocate violence, but if I had seen that, I would have just hauled off and hit that person.

Continuing…

On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 “hateful and intimidating” e-mails.

“They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don’t know my daughter’s name, but they’ve said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter.” (Classy! –abw)

At Tuesday’s feast, Raheja said she was told “if I had any issue with the school, I need to leave the school, and my daughter would not be welcomed.”

Raheja said, “We love Condit. We love the staff. Overall, we’ve had a very good experience. But the anger and hatred has been unbearable.”

If you have an opinion on this matter, I suggest you express it to the Condit staff and administrators yourself.  Website is here, complete with contact information.  I personally think it’s a little messed up for them to have even allowed parents to act in despicable ways around kids at their school or to distribute that email in the first place.

Google News on the subject here.  Beware clueless people being quoted and yammering on about how horrible political correctness is because it keeps their children from parading around in “headdresses”.  Idiots.

22 Responses

  1. I spent most of the “holiday” weekend arguing with a bunch of people online who were all up in arms about saving their “tradition”. Honest to maude, the tone-deafness and defensiveness (and, in the end, the outright and blatant racism — cause if you talk to them long enough, it’s gonna come out, dontcha know) was exhausting and depressing.

  2. I’d just like to make another plug for the Oyate website. They have a great piece on the myth of thanksgiving, and they also have personal statements and testimonies about how things like this idiotic pageant affect native children and families.

  3. ARGH. I will never understand why there isn’t a license for parenting in this country. I can just see the test now: “Demonstrating bigotry in front of my child is OK: True or False”.

    And I will never, ever, EVER understand why “fighting political correctness” is higher on some people’s moral measuring-stick than “not offending ethnic groups” or simply “not being a dick”. There’s some kind of freaky logic involved in that which I just do not get.

  4. nojojojo, the fight against “political correctness” here reminds me of white folks objecting to the retirement of “Indian” sports mascots. I think it’s higher on their moral measuring stick than “not offending ethnic groups” because they think said ethnic groups are being too “touchy,” too sensitive about something that “just can’t be racist, because we mean to HONOR Indians, not dishonor or disrespect them. We’re portraying them in a good light. Can’t you see that? If you can’t, that’s YOUR problem–you don’t understand what we’re trying to do here. You’re insisting on only seeing it YOUR way.” So it’s that familiar, misguided focus on intentions, rather than on effects.

    Also, the issue gets roped into other, similar ones labeled PC, where oblivious white folks (and men) get told they shouldn’t say or do certain things to or about other people. Again, a lack of empathy makes such people think their freedoms are being curtailed, and that anyone complaining about what they say or do is being too sensitive, cuz i didn’t mean it the way you’re taking it, etc.

    When people complain about “political correctness” around me, I usually ask them just what they mean by that, and why, exactly, they object to it. That usually slows them down, a lot.

  5. My former high school sports teams are called The Warriors. The homecoming queen gets crowned with an Indian headdress. I can pretty much guess your opinion on that ;-)

    Anyway,doesn’t it seem that the parents of elementary school kids are getting nuttier and nuttier when it comes to holiday celebrations? (present company excluded). First it was anger over schools’ decisions to call their band and chorus Christmas concerts “winter concerts”—even though the bulk of the music being played and sung were traditional Christmas songs and carols. Then Halloween parties became “harvest” or the generic “fall” parties (which I admit is dumb, because if kids are allowed to dress up in costume, they sure ain’t celebrating the harvest, but I digress).

    Many parents in the last several years are taking the wrong things too seriously. If their kids are being violent bullies at school and hurting other people oh well. If the school decides to stay open during a horrible ice storm, risking injury to students, staff, bus drivers, and parents who have to come get their kids, they are angry, but they get over it in a few days. But there is HELL to pay if they can’t dress up like a Native American for a Thanksgiving pageant and here come the death threats! Come on people, set an example for you kids, pick some better priorities, and stop being stupid!

  6. Racism strikes again and the urge to protect privilege to demean and discriminate doesn’t fall far behind, huh? But people are not exactly trying to confront their indoctrination are they?

  7. Sadly, you guys are only seeing racism in this. The point of the story and the so-called tradition, no matter how historically inaccurate, is the spirit of togetherness and sharing between different groups of people. No one is making Native Americans look stupid or pilgrims superior. Let’s focus on the message instead of the silly costumes.

  8. Hi there. (delurking) I enjoy your blog–I arrived here for the first time from the Feminist SF site.

    It took me (white, lower middle class) a really long time to get over my resistance to criticism of Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, etc. I remember actually arguing with an anti-Columbus Day organizer at college back in 1992. And this was doubly weird because I’d been doing anti-globalization activism since high school and had been the sole voice of “but surely the Europeans didn’t actually have to commit genocide in the New World” in my high school history classes.

    I look back and I ask myself why I was so attached to Columbus and Thanksgiving. I can’t quite figure it out, but I think it was mostly an inability to internalize how horrible colonization really was and an ingrained respect for authority.

    Even now I find I tend to flinch back from an emotional acceptance of genocide in the Americas–I know it intellectually, but it’s like part of my mind tries to know it at the level of words only because letting it be about feelings is both incredibly horrible and requires a response. It challenges the rest of my life–if that really happened, doesn’t it make my whole safe little life look shabby and empty? Doesn’t it demand that I change my whole life? And then my safe little life pulls on me, laziness pulls on me, self-indulgence pulls on me…

    And then like so many white middle class people I grew up trained, really trained to unquestioningly accept what I viewed as “authority” (something I still struggle with, even though my ideas about who is an authority have changed). So it was scary to me to take in this critique–if I really buy that Columbus Day is a celebration of genocide, that Thanksgiving is this horrible ghoulish memento of colonialism and early capitalism, I’m going to have to stand up to authority, the emotionally scariest authority of all, my father (who totally does not buy any of that “but I don’t want to even indirectly commemorate the stupid pilgrims”.)

    Honestly, I changed what I said because I wanted to fit in amongst the radicals on campus long before what I actually felt changed. It was a leap of faith; I remember thinking about it. I didn’t feel any of this stuff, but I had observed that the campus radicals were right more often than not, so I intellectually accepted what they said.

    You are so right about how we shouldn’t teach kids fake history. Fake history is powerful and unlearning is a really long process, much more than just hearing the real story.

  9. If the point is ‘togetherness and sharing’, why does it need to be done with all the added imaginary mythology?

  10. My own post on the subject:

    http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=430650517&blogID=452317636

    Re: your blog-

    Again, it goes to show you that racism and discrimination, along with unconscious thinking, are alive and well in American. We may have a “Black” president, but he is only one of many!

  11. An adult does a war-dance and tells a 5 year old to “Go to Hell” because her mother tried to privately address a concern, and had that concern publized without her knowledge. Help me out on the togetherness part?

    I am very tired of Thanksgiving “Indians” who appear to have been inspired by cartoons (these were and ARE real people). I am tired of people telling me Little Red Sambo (Atlanta Braves) or “Redskins” (no comment) honors my ancestors. The general ignorance and refusal to even acknowledge the REALITY of Native concerns in this country is appalling.

    As ever ABW, thank you.

  12. Yeah, this is one of many reasons I am not down with “Thanksgiving.” And another example of the breeding of little non-free thinkers, fed lies, taught the white man is good/best and the “others” are HISTORICALLY (LOL) the killers. Be scared kids, learn to be scared. UGH I was raised in FORT Wayne, IN where the mighty indian killers have monuments and moved to Seattle where the monuments are of Native Americans…still sent to reservations, still casinos, still all the bad stuff, but at least they try in Seattle.

  13. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I am not.

    On a related matter: There is a particular pattern of thinking/behavior in which people hold on to their familiar patterns of behavior despite being told that it is causing offense to others. They say, “I don’t mean any harm, so why can’t I keep doing it?” instead of saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause offense, and I’ll try not to do it again.” One is just as easy to say as the other.

    I am always surprised at how many otherwise sensitive and courteous people insist on their right to inflict pain or give offense in matters between ethnic and cultural groups. I always think that perhaps I have not described the matter clearly enough. “I don’t know why it bothers you so much — it doesn’t bother me, so why should I change?”

    I am reminded of the dictum “A lady does not unintentionally give offense to others.” Some people apparently think it is their political responsibility to give offense, and that if they are even polite, they have lost some personal battle.

    Frowner, thanks for the thoughtful account of your own journey. I think a lot of that sort of thing underlies not only the Thanksgiving debate, but day-to-day interactions between different cultural groups.

    For many people, of course, it’s a power struggle, and they more they feel they have lost power in other areas of their lives, the more they take it out on other people.

  14. Delux-
    Thank you for the link to Oyate on the myths of Thanksgiving. I sent the link to all of my colleagues right away.

  15. Every time I have hope for the human race to move beyond their ignorance, I’m proven wrong. Some days I think it would be OK to just nuke us all. But thats not right because good people would be nuked as well. Because of the good ones, the world keeps having to accept the ignorant ones. *shakes head* Who the hell installed such faulty programming in the humans? I want my money back.

  16. Eileen,

    I think you nailed it. It’s a power struggle, and those who are losing in so many areas of their lives resent losing what they see as one more thing “that has always been that way.” It’s especially galling to lose “it” to one of a group whose members they used to be able to look down upon, but no longer can.

    Hence, the jealousy over native owned and run casinos, the past anger over “welfare queens,” and the current bashing of immigrants who are “stealin’ our jobs!”

    All of these are easy targets, simple targets, and avoide the hard thinking and hard work required to go after the real source of the problem – typically a combination of a series of stupid economic decisions by individuals compounded by a system that both encourages stupid economic decisions and transfers wealth from the have nots to the haves and have mores at every opportunity.

  17. The initial problem was the costumes perpetuating stereotypes right? What was so hard about fixing them so they didn’t do that then?

  18. I am not sure how many people would think that we should focus on “togetherness and sharing” instead of “silly costumes” if there was a holiday where kids were taught to dress up in Gestapo SS uniforms and death camp uniforms and sit down to have a lovely feast. Shall we evoke the image of someone non-Jewish jumping around in a death camp outfit with fake serial tattoos on their arm telling some 5 year old and her socially ware parent to “go to hell?”

    That, is why there is this “focus on racism”.

  19. I have friends who watch this every Thankstaking… in case its been awhile, or you missed it the first time around… i present to you… maybe one of the more surprisingly subversive moments in mainstream media…
    The Addams Family Values Thanksgiving Play!

  20. On Tuesday, numerous parents and their children dressed in American Indian and Pilgrim costumes to protest a Claremont Unified School District decision to have a Thanksgiving feast without the costumes that have been traditional for decades.

    Anyone else find that unintentionally hilarious (I mean, in a NOT kind of way)?

    I personally think it’s a little messed up for them to have even allowed parents to act in despicable ways around kids at their school or to distribute that email in the first place.

    Having spent my entire childhood fighting and enduring teacher-endorsed bigotry at school (and my entire adulthood reliving it, especially during Nov-Dec for SOME reason), let me predict the future here.

    When asked, the school will insist that maybe they might not have completely fully 100% agreed with everything that a select few of the parents might have possibly been kind of doing, but there was nothing they could do about it because that would be violating those few bad apples’ freedom a’speech, regardless of whether the staff on average might have disagreed a little bit with some aspects of what some of them could have been interpreted as doing.

    This is bullshit. If what the parents and their children were doing was in any way disruptive or insensitive, then the school administrators absolutely do have the legal right and responsibility to tell them to get the fuck off of school grounds, and they absolutely do have the right and responsibility to enforce it if they refuse. Immunity denied, assholes.

  21. This doesn’t suprise me one bit. These parents are unfortunatly a good cross section of many millions of whites that learned this crap from “their” parents, when it was socially acceptable to mock people of other races. They are so sick that they see absolutley nothing wrong with any of this. if nothing else, they should not teach their kids a lie. I think back to a comment I heard from an old white school principal when I was a child speaking to one of the white parents in the hallway “Why slavery wasn’t really as bad a blacks say it was. Blacks were actually happier then when their every need was provided for them. Most slave owners didn’t even beat their slaves.” Disgusting!

  22. Did you know public schools also do crazy stupid shit like this to little blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys, too? Though not as rampant, it’s true. Check out this story about a kindergarten teacher who had her class vote whether a FIVE YEAR OLD CLASSMATE should be allowed to stay in class or be removed – AND how the teacher had each student stand up and tell the class, while the FIVE YEAR OLD STOOD THERE, what they didn’t like about him. http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2008/may/23/st-lucie-teacher-has-class-vote-whether-5-year-old/

    I don’t mean to badmouth teachers as a whole. Lots of ‘em do their damndest in tough situations. Still, these stories of families threatened for standing up for their children, their cultural heritage, themselves, history lessons based on political convenience rather than true history, and children being publicly humiliated. Well, these are among the many reasons we choose not to take part in The Education System.

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