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Thanksgiving Costumes Are Demeaning

From an outraged (at the tradition) Los Angeles Times:


Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

Some say having students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans is ‘demeaning.’ Their opponents say they are elitists injecting politics into a simple children’s celebration.

By Seema Mehta
November 25, 2008

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won’t be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child’s depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

“It’s demeaning,” Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter’s teacher. “I’m sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation’s history.”

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without “dehumanizing” her daughter’s ancestry.

“There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype,” she said.

Last week, rumors began to circulate on both campuses that the district was planning to cancel the event, and infuriated parents argued over the matter at a heated school board meeting Thursday. District Supt. David Cash announced at the end of the meeting that the two schools had tentatively decided to hold the event without the costumes, and sent a memo to parents Friday confirming the decision.

Cash and the principals of Condit and Mountain View did not respond to interview requests.

But many parents, who are convinced the decision was made before the board meeting, accused administrators of bowing to political correctness.

Kathleen Lucas, a Condit parent who is of Choctaw heritage, said her son — now a first-grader — still wears the vest and feathered headband he made last year to celebrate the holiday.

“My son was so proud,” she said. “In his eyes, he thinks that’s what it looks like to be Indian.”

Among the costume supporters, there is a vein of suspicion that casts Raheja and others opposed to the costumes as agenda-driven elitists. Of the handful of others who spoke with Raheja against the costumes at the board meeting, one teaches at the University of Redlands, one is an instructor at Riverside Community College, and one is a former Pitzer College professor.

Raheja is “using those children as a political platform for herself and her ideas,” Constance Garabedian said as her 5-year-old Mountain View kindergartner happily practiced a song about Native Americans in the background. “I’m not a professor and I’m not a historian, but I can put the dots together.”

The debate is far from over. Some parents plan to send their children to school in costume Tuesday — doubting that administrators will force them to take them off. The following day, some plan to keep their children home, costing the district attendance funds to punish them for modifying the event.

“She’s not going to tell us what we can and cannot wear,” said Dena Murphy, whose 5-year-old son attends Mountain View. “We’re tired of [district officials] cowing down to people. It’s not right.”

But others hoped that tempers would calm over the long holiday weekend, and the community could come together to have a fruitful discussion about Thanksgiving and its meaning.

“Its always a good thing to think about, critically, how we teach kids, even from very young ages, the message we want them to learn, and the respect for the diversity of the American experiences,” said Jennifer Tilton, an assistant professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands and a Claremont parent who opposes the costumes.

Cody Lucas, left, and Vince Tran participated in last year’s Thanksgiving celebration, a four-decade-old Claremont school district tradition.

Obviously, Ms. Raheja has a tomahawk to grind.

But what the article calls a “clash between parents” is really a clash between the parents and four (community) college professors who, like Raheja, probably make their living picking at scabs.

Good for the parents for circling the wagons against these professional soreheads and grievance mongers.

(Thanks to BillK for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “Thanksgiving Costumes Are Demeaning”

  1. BillK says:

    The attack on Thanksgiving continues.

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

    Some say having students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans is ‘demeaning.’ Their opponents say they are elitists injecting politics into a simple children’s celebration.

    By Seema Mehta

    For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won’t be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests…

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-thanksgiving25-2008nov25,0,1458033.story

    We’re doomed as a nation.

    One native american is offended, one proud.

    But of course we can never do anything that might possibly offend anyone, so the pageant will have to go.

    “Its always a good thing to think about, critically, how we teach kids, even from very young ages, the message we want them to learn, and the respect for the diversity of the American experiences,” said Jennifer Tilton, an assistant professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands and a Claremont parent who opposes the costumes.

    Where “respect for diversity” of course will mean teaching nothing.

  2. wardmama4 says:

    “There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype,

    Uh, when The One ™ went to Africa and wore ‘the garb’ of the locals – he was touted for his ‘sensitivity’ and ‘enlightenment’ and when (fallen) Catholic that she isn’t Pelosi went to Syria and mocked both religions by crossing herself while wearing a headcovering – she was being ‘sensitive’ and ‘enlighten’ not to mention the countless AfricanAmericans who pick and chose what ‘African’ dress/styles/names they want without regard to their real heritage but when a bunch of kindergartners wear construction paper outfits – it is racist!

    Instead of touting the celebration that the Pilgrims were not butchering the Natives nor the Natives were not butchering the Pilgrims – but were in tolerant, diverse loving, peace, justice, unifying, humanity sharing food and fortune – today’s liberal has to make it into a racist, slave/master, white conquering everyone hatefest.

    America is going to hell in a tolerant (NOT) handbasket.

  3. Liberals Demise says:

    Well said wardmama4 and Happy Thanksgiving to all here except Raheja……..may the Washington Redskins take a HUGE shiite on the 50 yrd.line of your dinner table tomorrow! You hater of everything wholesome and innocent in a childs eyes. You truely make me sick!!

  4. jhenry says:

    I think a “handbasket” would be too small! We have to remember the one teaching some of these teachers/professors is none other than the “Bomber” himself, Bill Ayers. Do you think that some, if not all, of his views spill over into his “teachings”?

  5. Gila Monster says:

    “It’s demeaning,” Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter’s teacher.

    Demeaning? Oh for Pete’s sake, give me a break you moronic titwillow!!

    If you want to see demeaning, go visit damn near any Indian reservation in the US! Now that’s demeaning! Rampant poverty, alcohol and drug use, squalor, you name it.
    Reservations are a prime example of why socialism will never work, here or elsewhere. They’re also an example of why assimilation into US society is so important to the health of our nation.

  6. VMAN says:

    “assistant professor of race and ethnic studies” Isn’t that code for White European Americans SUCK and every other race is pure a chaste. I’m reminded of the wooden man Al Gore who thought E PLURIBUS UNUM meant out of the one many. What a dope! Knowing ones ethnic heritage is great but if your a citizen of the US then you have a new ethnic heritage. You are part of the many who have become one, Americans.

  7. The Redneck says:

    I wonder if Raheja, who thinks Indians and Pilgrims is equivalent to Jews and Nazis, has any intention of apologizing for the suffering ~her~ people have spread.

    The Iroquois were pretty well-known for terrorizing their neighbors all over the area that’s now New York State. Does she have any of the shame we’re supposed to feel about her tribe’s depredations?


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