I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hatin' on Kwanzaa, Part 2

In which our heroine finds peace about kwanzaa.

I wrote this e-mail to our school's principal this year:

Will you please pass this on to the teachers and staff? As a person who grew up celebrating kwanzaa, I am interested in making sure people have an accurate idea of it.

Increasingly, people of good will sort of blindly lump it in with other, essentially religious, seasonal holidays. And there has arisen this mystery around it, which suggests that Black Americans are in on something that is difficult for others to understand or appreciate. Even a lot of the books out there make it seem like it's something that it's not. I think that shrouding these rites in secrecy only increases racial division and we certainly don't need any of that.

I would like to make myself available for anybody who wants to do something on kwanzaa. I don't want to hear anybody spreading the misunderstanding that it has roots in Africa or in religion. It was really an early civil rights awareness exercise -- a pillars of character program, if you will.

Appropriate to the age group, of course, I'd want teachers to be prepared to discuss critically that its principles are nationalist and Marxist and might very well not ring true. That its practices embrace a primitive fetishized view of the African continent that might very well not be authentic or sensitive to the real modern day people who actually live there. That the principles and the practices should be understood in their historical context, the 1960's.

I personally hope that what kids would get out of it is the idea that the creator of this program did this because he wanted people to pause and reflect on some really important principles. That pausing and reflecting on principles is always good news. And that its importance now might be as an invitation to pause and reflect on your own principles.


Dinosaur Mom said...

But the burning question remains: can white people celebrate kwanzaa or is that just lame?

Astrodon Johnstoni said...

Hmmm. Darn fine question. You'd have to do it with just the right ratio of snarky vs. earnest.