On -isms: Thanksgiving Comics

By | Thursday, November 23, 2017 Leave a Comment
As you travel in comics circles (why else would you be reading this blog?) you will no doubt today see any number of posts, tweets, grams, toots, and whatever else that include a comic book cover highlighting Thanksgiving in some form or another. You'll see everyone from Donald Duck to Scooby-Doo to Archie to The Tick to Green Lantern facing off against a turkey -- maybe still living, maybe fully cooked. You'll see any number of homages/parodies/knock-offs of Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want painting featuring the Fantastic Four or the JSA or Barbie or Batman's rogues gallery. Some of the images will be from fairly recent comics, some will be a half century old. And whether you realize it or not, pretty much all of them will have a racist undercurrent.

Now, you might say to yourself, "Well, sure, the ones from fifty years ago that feature stereotypical Native American headgear, I get that, but I don't see anything racist in the more contemporary books. Don't publishers tend to avoid using racist caricatures any more?"

True, the racism in older books tends to be more overt and obvious with several decades of hindsight. But later book still portray Thanksgiving through a lens of heavy whitewashing, omitting the harsh realities of that time period. Taté Walker, the editor of Native Peoples Magazine, has noted:
Some Natives are indeed ‘offended’ by Thanksgiving, in the same way farting can offend someone’s sense of smell. The word ‘offended’ or the phrase ‘taking offense’ downplays what holidays like Thanksgiving represent for some Native people. The people who protest Thanksgiving aren’t doing so because they’re offended; they’re doing so because Thanksgiving is a nice way to sweep the genocide of millions under the rug. That’s pretty racist, if you ask me (and I haven’t even mentioned the millions of schoolchildren who dress in redface and war-hoop for school celebrations). In celebrating a mythological account of ‘The First Thanksgiving,’ not only are Americans blindly accepting a whitewashed version of events, but they’re also ignoring the very real history that the ‘thanks’ given by colonizers was that their diseases (among other unfair causes of death) were killing off Indians by the thousands. Essentially, ‘Let’s give thanks to a god who clears the way of savages for our colonies to thrive.’ Hey – pass the gravy, will ya?
So while a specific image -- like the one I'm using with this post -- isn't racist in and of itself, it's still promoting a mythic version of the first Thanksgiving that has decidedly racist origins.

Now, I'm not saying "Don't celebrate Thanksgiving" or "Don't buy Thanksgiving-themed comics." Many Native Americans indeed celebrate the secular holiday as a day of giving thanks to their loved ones. What I'm saying is that you should spend some time knowing the actual origins of the holiday, rather than just relying on the bullshit about buckle-adorned Purtians and loin-cloth-wearing "Injuns" that you were fed in grade school. Here, I'll help you get started...

Newer Post Older Post Home