November 25, 2021

I've long abandoned the notion that the true story of Thanksgiving involved Pilgrims bringing anything of value to the Indigenous people who lived here for centuries before the Europeans arrived, and one of my favorite depictions of this truth belongs to Eddie Izzard.

"Yes, there's more of us coming, but we'll keep our promises!" she quips at the end... It's so, so brilliant.

A fresher, more true to the needs of today telling of that truth came from Gyasi Ross this weekend. Ross is a member of one of those Indigenous tribes, and he knows a little something about how white people are still clinging to the myth that when Europeans arrived on this continent, they brought anything positive to help lift the lives of the original residents. Ross is a brilliant criminal defense attorney, a frequent contributor to MSNBC, and he had a few words to say on Saturday for us to contemplate as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday.

GYASI ROSS: The mythology of Thanksgiving closely mirrors the mythology of America. That mythology is the image that white Americans love to see of themselves. White settlers come to a strange land in good faith bringing something of great value that enriches the people who are already here. The Natives also bring something of immense value -- equal exchange. That closely mimics the mythology of white America. It is how America wants to see itself.

The truth, of course, of Thanksgiving is much different. The truth is, the Pilgrims did not bring turkey, sweet potato pie, or cranberries to Thanksgiving. They could not. They were broke. They were broken -- their hands were out -- they were begging -- they brought nothing of value. But they got fed -- they got schooled. Thanksgiving -- it makes sense. There is much for white Americans to be thankful for.

But I'm still trying to find out what indigenous people received of value. Instead of bringing stuffing and biscuits, those settlers brought genocide and violence. That genocide and violence is still on the menu as state-sponsored violence against Native and black Americans is commonplace. And violent private white supremacy is celebrated and subsidized.

From Stonechild Chiefstick to Mike Brown to Renee Davis to Breonna Taylor to Eric Garner, indigenous and black people are still being murdered by those paid to protect us. From Ahmaud Arbery to Trayvon Martin, white Americans are still killing Native and black Americans with no fear of reprisal. They brought chattel slavery to Africans and Native people that still happens through the prison industrial complex that imprisons the descendants of enslaved Africans and Natives at far disparate numbers. That is the reality of Thanksgiving.

Many of us are still waiting for white Americans to bring some value -- still waiting for white Americans to match the mythology of Thanksgiving. Freedom, justice, equality, reparations for two and a half billion acres of stolen Native land -- reparations for 246 years of stolen labor -- reparations for stealing Native children. Stop the killing -- it's still happening. Stop the theft -- it's still happening. Return the land -- match the mythology. Then, and only then, we can all be equally thankful. Peace.

Can you even begin to imagine what people like Ross must feel like when he hears white people screeching "Stop the Steal" about the 2020 election? How about stopping the steal of their land, their water, their labor, their children, their history, their contributions over the last several hundred years? And yet, of course, wingnuts had nothing but aggressive defensiveness.

I suppose, though, if Ted Cruz feels threatened by, and is lying about you, you're doing something right.

Can you help us out?

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