Discuss. or not.
Many facets of that merit discussion. I’m having a hard time pinning it down to one thing to say. Uhm, yeah. Oh mighty discussion leader… lead the discussion? :)
The business with the history of Kwanzaa is interesting (I’ve never heard of it), but nothing much is said of the initial jumping-off point – is it ok for one culture to celebrate another culture’s festivals, or generally adopt aspects of their culture?
I can’t say I have an answer but I would like to observe that this kind of cultural cross-pollination is one of the main factors in the creation and maintenance of culturally energetic societies, not to mention virtually unstoppable.
Interesting article, and lots of good points about racial division in this country that I’ve been agreeing with for years. All of us probably have ancestry who were oppressed, enslaved, or mistreated by some other group. You can hang onto that, and end up like the former Yugoslavia, or you can acknowledge what happened in the past and get on with life. I understand why things like Kwaanza and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and the Democratic Party exist – if you can make people feel like they are members of groups, and convince them that other groups want to harm them, then it leads to political and economic power for the “leaders” of those groups. As in other things, follow the money. I for one despise people who promote division, whether within the borders of a country or outside, for selfish gain.
As for Kwanzaa, it’s not my holiday. I don’t know much about it (beyond what was in that article anyway) and don’t really care about it. I give it the same amount of attention that I give to, say, Jewish holidays. And as the author seemed to imply, I *don’t* see a reason for Americans as a whole to become familiar with every sort of subculture – and “subculture” is exactly the word for all the Afro-centric ideas out there – that exists in our midst. Plenty of Americans feel no need to celebrate July 4th or Thanksgiving or other traditions, and there’s no reason they should. But I also feel no need to celebrate or care about the Chinese traditions or the Italian traditions or anything else that really isn’t part of my life – I’ve got enough things to worry about already.
Nothing wrong with either, but I consider them both to be “shallow rebellions” that are almost self-mocking due to how closely they mirror the things they are supposedly rebelling against.
Which is not to say I have anything against people who celebrate Kwanza or gather in covens. Just that I feel it’s a little too obvious for my taste. Maybe I’m just an intellectual snob…
his criticism is pretty empty. it hinges on a misinterpretation: he has chosen to interpret the validity of “kwanzaa the cultural practise” as “whether or not kwanzaa’s values accurately describe the history and politics of africa as a whole”. this is an absurd interpretation, equivalent to saying “christmas sucks because christians sometimes fight and christ was all about peace”. sure, kwanzaa is a starry-eyed fantasy about how nice it would be if all africans loved one another and worked together. but so what? which festival isn’t a starry-eyed fantasy?
looking around, frontpagemag.com, it seems this is a glamorized warblog. note editorial posting blaming the editors of the new york times for stalin’s crimes, pages about “exposing terrorists in our midst”, etc.
What I find annoying about some approaches to Kwanza, or other less mainstream holidays, is the false inclusiveness that assumes a) that all Black people will be celebrating Kwanza; B) that assumes that by adding in other celebrations to the holiday greeting one is being egalitarian.
It bugs me when people do the list of “Merry Christmas, Channukah, yule, and Kwanza” (yes, people do this) because it’s to me strikingly reminiscent of the GLBT soup that substitutes inclusivity for justice and liberation.
To start, while being inclusive is nice, I think we need to examine what we’re being included in, and determine whether that’s a valuable thing. If we’re just being included in capitalist merchandising, or in vapid holiday cit-chat, I’m not so keen.
The inclusion model also refuses to challenge the values at the centre. Inclusion of queers doesn’t address heterosexism. The inclusion of GLBT politics doesn’t address the hierarchy within the queer word. Racial inclusion doesn’t address wite hegemony. So that kind of bugs me.
I think the author’s comments about the problems of Kwanza are valid, but they aren’t particularly unique to Kwanza. That is, there aren’t exactly more problems with Kwanza than there are with say, Christmas. I’m a theologian. There’s a whole lot of material one could dredge up about that holiday – from the date, to the co-opting of non-Christian holiday symbols, to the in-group arguments over which model of Christianity should be represented in “Christian” holiday practices. Ex; not all cCristians believe in a divine Jesus. A further question: what are the implications of adopting a Catholic saint (Santa Claus)as a secular symbol of a winter gift-giving holiday?
To elaborate on the “all black people celebrate Kwanza” idea, it bothers me when the popularization of cultural traditions just feed into further stereotyping. I can’t count how often this happens in my life, when something queer, indian etc. gets popular and people assume this somehow gives them accurate information about my life. I developed a serious hatred for dreamcatchers, let me tell you.
One last concern. The continual addition of cultural “info” to the already over-loaded psyche of mainstream North Americans is potentially explosive. Lots of people already feel that “minorities” get “special rights.” The paranoiac in me can’t help but suspect that the liberal tendency to include without actually offering justice or equality, let alone liberation, will inevitably feed into a 30s Germany-style backlash that will destroy all we’ve fought to achieve.
But that’s just me.
All cultural inventions that are non-inclusive in principle are fundamentally uncool, in my opinion. This applies to Kwanzaa, and — no offence intended — it also applies to events like Pride Parade.
By “non-inclusive” above I mean things where “membership” is determined by factors over which an individual has no choice/control.
A white or, say, asian person would inevitably feel like an outsider at a Kwanzaa celebration, and likewise a heterosexual person would invariably feel like a “spectator” (not a participant) at a Gay Pride event (try as they might to pretend otherwise).
An inclusive holiday/festival/event, on the other hand, would be the kind where anyone can feel a part of it. Anyone who digs what the holiday is about, regardless of their ethnic background or sexual orientation or other factors beyond their control.
Religious holidays would be somewhere halfway between inclusive and non-inclusive. (It’s possible to renounce the religion you were brought up in, but it’s not easy.)
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