World Trust

Thanksgiving Truth-Telling: Talking about History with Family

Posted by Lisa Abbott on November 26, 2014
Today we are calling attention to Debby Irving's recent challenge to engage in truth-telling over the tgving-time-to-genocideThanksgiving holiday.  While engaging in diversity activities with family may seem daunting, the author and racial justice educator shares why she took the step:

When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. - See more at: http://debbyirving.com/a-thanksgiving-truth-telling-challenge/#sthash.3s2bgaDy.dpuf
When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. - See more at: http://debbyirving.com/a-thanksgiving-truth-telling-challenge/#sthash.3s2bgaDy.dpuf
When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. - See more at: http://debbyirving.com/a-thanksgiving-truth-telling-challenge/#sthash.3s2bgaDy.dpuf
When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. - See more at: http://debbyirving.com/a-thanksgiving-truth-telling-challenge/#sthash.3s2bgaDy.dpuf
When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. - See more at: http://debbyirving.com/a-thanksgiving-truth-telling-challenge/#sthash.3s2bgaDy.dpuf
"When I was younger, the holiday included colorful tales of the Pilgrim’s brave Atlantic crossing, brutal first winter, and harmonious celebratory feast with ‘The Indians.’ No one challenged the peaceful narrative in my segregated, comfortable, white world because along with the turkey and mashed potatoes another tradition was being upheld: the white tradition of segregation, comfort, and avoidance of truth telling. 

"The more I learned about what really went down in the decades following white Europeans’ invasion of this continent, however, the more conflicted I felt as I complied through the tradition of polite conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Feelings of grief and horror at the destruction of native nations would bubble up. The fear that broaching the topic would land me in the doghouse amplified those feelings. This is how oppression works. Silence and avoidance keep us all in our place."

At World Trust, we believe that it is impossible to overcome systemic inequity without dialogue. Yet, as we've written about before, polite people don't talk about race.  Irving goes on to share her experience of breaking the silence (spoiler: her family still loves her.) And offers guidance on how to take up her "truth-telling challenge" and move beyond polite conversation at the holiday table. Check it out!

The system of racial inequity is embedded in our history. To learn more about systemic inequity, click below.
Download pdf of System of Inequity

Topics: Talk about Race