Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a peaceful Thanksgiving day with minimal family drama, plenty of great food, and a moment to reflect on the historical, cultural and political meaning of this holiday.
As a U.S. born citizen, the Thanksgiving holiday has been embedded in my traditions as a day of gratitude for the country I have the honor of living in and the quality of life I am lucky to have.
Now that I am old enough to be reflective on my identity and values, and as politics become more divisive, I have come to approach this holiday differently than I would have maybe 10, or even 5 years ago. While I no doubt still believe in taking moments of gratitude to appreciate one’s quality of life, I also firmly believe there is much value to be found in understanding the circumstances of our blessings and privilege, and whose shoulders we are either standing on or backs we are walking over to have what we do.
I am often disheartened to hear white, U.S. born citizens who have found some form of success talk about their fortune as self-built with the “by the bootstraps” mentality. Rather than base our successes in ego, I find much deeper connection, gratitude, and sense of reality, in remembering it took a nation built on a horrific history of slavery, colonialism, white imperialism and privilege, and capitalism to build any sort of foundation for much of the luxury and opportunity many of us are able to experience.
Considering the very real factors that build our blessings, self-centered or otherwise, does not have to detract from the joyful season. Instead, we can use the knowledge we have of the often grim history of our country’s success and use it to begin rectifying the past; whether that is simply educating family members at the dinner table who don’t understand the true nature of the crimes and injustices committed against non-white communities such as indigenous peoples, or advocating for diversity of our elected officials to reflect all communities represented, including indigenous, non-white, immigrant, and LGBT+ citizens.
Rather than shrug off blame as the crimes of the past, we must come to the realization that past wrongdoings carry very real consequences still today. In committing to reconciliation, we can begin to heal as a nation that strives for a country where fortune is dependent solely on character and not on privilege and the demise of others.
I hope that in the season of peace and coming together, we can all do a little more to reach across the table, aisle, or proverbial divide to create a meaningful understanding of our history as a nation. We cannot change or erase history, as hard as we might try, but we do have the ability to be conscious actors that have the efficacy to create change.
April Wilson is the Development Director at Alliance for a Better Utah.