Claremont Insider: Celebration of Genocide?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Celebration of Genocide?

The Claremont Unified School District, through its District Cabinet and prinicpals, has adopted the "Thanksgiving as a Celebration of Genocide" view and cancelled a key element of the kindergartener's - kindergartener's! - Thanksgiving Feast event scheduled for Tuesday, November 25. Unlike previous years (40 if the story is correct) the students will not dress in construction-paper-and-white-paste-crayon-accented Pilgrim and Indian costumes. Instead, they will be in their usual school field trip "spirit" t-shirts.

This is in response to a letter from UCR Assistant Professor of English, Michelle Raheja, a Condit Kindergarten parent and a Seneca. (The letter was read yesterday afternoon on the KFI John and Ken show; we don't have conveniently-edited versions yet, but you may listen here, starting about halfway through the clip.)

The notice to the Mountain View parents, from M.V. principal Clara Arocha, began in the usual bubbly school administrator-speak: "This year we continue the wonderful tradition of sharing a feast with the students of Condit. What an incredible opportunity to celebrate the spirit of friendship and giving at a Thanksgiving gathering..." It goes on to describe the events [click on the image for a larger version. We took it from our predator drone high above the school yesterday.] It sounds as if the two elementary schools are going to have yet another happy merry party.

The money line comes in the third paragraph: "In order to be sensitive to the Native American culture, we will not celebrate our feast together in costume."

This was the issue that occupied at least a half hour at Thursday's school board meeting, described by Wes Woods at the Daily Bulletin. The Courier also covered it on page 3, but you've gotta buy Saturday's paper. [a good idea in any event, but we now see the Landus Rigby account of the brouhaha is online]

We received a note that made us pause a bit, more than anything for the suggestion that policies ought to be dictated by subjective feelings and not be fact-based. And in fact, wrongness ought to be respected. We have to admit to belonging to the old-fashioned school that says wrongness ought to be cured.

My sense is that there are many, many people concerned about and in agreement about this [that is, the outrage at the costumes]. I don't know, myself. For all I know they are wrong about a great many things. You may well think they are wrong about a great many things. I do think it compassionate and respectful, however, to take people at their word when they say that something is hurtful to them, and to avoid the hurt where it is possible to do so without inflicting similar harm to others. To prefer a game of dressup to the sort of hurt reported in this case - that I cannot understand. Even if they are wrong, they should be respected.

Further, on that note, I don't understand why people who desire such a celebration don't simply arrange to hold one, outside of public school?

So the question is, "what are the parents going to do?" Are they going to defy the school administration and hijack the event to a public park?--or even block Mountain Avenue and herd the kids off the school property and produce the costumes and show the little tykes some real civil disobedience? Chances are not.

One line in the district letter especially catches our attention: "We are attempting to give authentic representation of those two groups [Pilgrims and Indians] by having members of Pilgrim's Place [sic], and a local tribe attend the feast." Huh? The Pilgrim perspective is represented by an elderly retired missionary, and the Indian's viewpoint by one of the usual Tongva suspects.? William Bradford was 30 years old in 1620, and the Tongvas were camped on Indian Hill and in the canyons of the San Gabriels--3000 miles from Plymouth Plantation. If one of the complaints is inauthenticity, then this plan ought to be tossed in the dumper.

If you want authentic 21st-Century Pilgrims and Indians, how about getting someone who makes a frequent pilgrimage to the Indian Establishment below: