Tuesday, November 25, 2008

turkeys; lots of turkeys

Today we enjoyed our premier grade-school Thanksgiving show. Four classes of first-graders sang and performed and recited their way through a robust T-day dinner. This part was fun. The best song was certainly "Burt the Turkey."
(Now that I've updated the picture, I should add that those are Turkey hats worn backwards. You can image what they're meant to resemble.)

Unfortunately, the performance did not end with visions of dinner. We had Pilgrims and (you knew it was coming) "Indians." These were the stereotypical variety. The cringe-factor escalated from the song "If I were an Indian boy" to a performance of the "evening song" (which you can replicate by singing a monotone and flapping your hand over your mouth). As if this wasn't bad enough, our creative teachers made up the material. And in this room of 130 adults, only R seemed similarly shocked and nauseated. Racial essentialism is alive and kicking in Orange County.* Be sure to duck.

So, my question is how do we get an antiquated Thanksgiving to fade into the past the way that Columbus Day did? My idea is to push for the use of "Wampanoags" over "Indian." After all, first-graders are aware enough to know that "Pilgrims" were a group of people who lived in the "past." The same could work for the Natives of the first Thanksgiving, right? The problem with this plan is that it leaves Wampanoags in the same ambiguously "historical" place from which "Indians" have long been trying to escape.

*along with enforcement of dominant gender roles. The permission slip which allowed students to participate in the school's Halloween "parade of costumes" included the rule: costumes "may not cross gender roles (i.e. boys wearing dresses, etc.)." But you know this rule didn't apply to girls costumed as cowboys or Jedi.

No comments: