Giving Thanks While the World Burns: A 2019 Thanksgiving Special by Sophia Ned-James

IT’S THANKSGIVING! 

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a special time where family and friends gather for fellowship, football, and food.

Yes, we Black folks also acknowledge the repugnant truths behind this problematic holiday, with its white supremacist, genocidal beginnings. That’s why we don’t even tell that tired old revisionist story about the pilgrims anymore. Or if we do, we make sure to tell the truth and shame the devil!

For us, the holiday is really a chance to pause and reflect on all our blessings. It allows us to focus on the good things in our lives for a change, which can be a real challenge these days (more on that in a minute). Even if you’re the type who counts your blessings every day, there’s just something extra special about setting aside a specific day to do so with your loved ones.

Also, the food is amazing! Seriously, can’t nobody do Thanksgiving like Black folks.

But to be honest, I’m struggling to get into a thankful mood this year. And I know I’m not alone. From the social media posts I’ve read and the conversations I’ve had, the state of the world has got everyone feeling some type of way.

Can you blame us, though? I mean, we Americans are going into our 3rd year of the worst presidency in our nation’s history. And even if 45’s ultimately impeached by the House of Representatives, the chances that he’ll be removed from office by the Republican-led Senate are slim to none. It’s hard to feel grateful when you live in a country with an unhinged criminal at the helm of a corrupt and racist administration.

Even if you set aside the fact that our democracy is in peril, things are still pretty bad, especially if you’re Black and a woman. Our voting rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights are under vicious attack. White supremacist misogynists have been emboldened by our so-called leaders, putting all of our lives at risk. And despite being the most educated demographic in the country, Black women still only earn $.61 for every $1 a white man earns.

And don’t even get me started on how Black girls’ hair is heavily policed in school; the same school where they get punished harder and more often than white girls. Meanwhile, they’re also overly-sexualized and abused at higher rates than white girls.

Family separations happen at our southern borders, where (and I can’t even believe I’m typing these words) babies are kept in cages. Domestic and intimate partner violence is on the rise, as are sexual assaults and rapes. Sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business, and is growing. Too many of our families suffer from food and housing insecurity and soul-crushing poverty; while at the same time, we have billionaires who pay little to no income taxes.

On top of all of that, we’ve abused our planet so badly that we’re witnessing, first-hand, the effects of climate change with deadlier weather events and contaminated water. Add to all of the above, the growing number of raging wildfires, our world is literally burning down around us!

So how can we, as Black American women, still feel real gratitude on Thanksgiving Day this year? How can we find thankfulness in our hearts when our hearts get broken every damn day in this country?

Yes, we’ll dutifully bear the brunt of the cooking and planning for our families, and we’ll even enjoy it. We’ll watch football, catch up with our loved ones, play some cards, dance to some old-school jams, and laugh til our bellies ache. We’ll do all this because that is what we do. We persevere. We fight on. We feed our families, and we make the best of it.

Black women have made “getting it done in the face of adversity” an art form, but we’re still human. We still hurt. We still experience pain and heartbreak.

So if you’re struggling to be thankful this Thanksgiving, you’re not alone and you shouldn’t feel bad. But no matter how bad things are, there’s always something to be thankful for.

Here are a few reminders of your reasons to feel and express gratitude:

  1. You’re Alive! Listen. Despite everything you’re going through, you’re still here. You woke up this morning when a lot of other folks didn’t. And even though you may have some health challenges here, and a few more aches and pains there, you are alive. Always be grateful for life.
  2. You’re Loved! Even if you’re currently single and don’t have the romantic love you long for, revel in the fact that you are loved by someone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. And of course, God loves you. Even if your loved ones have gone on to Glory, their love for you remains forever. Never forget that you’re loved.
  3. Your People! Whether it’s your family or your friends, you are blessed with loved ones with whom you can truly be yourself. These are your people, and you’re as lucky to have them as they are to have you. Even if you don’t have healthy relationships with your family, you’ve somehow managed, in this crazy world, to create a “family” with the people who know you, get you, and love you. That is something special, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to celebrate it.
  4. Your Talents! Everyone has something they’re good at, whether they have the chance to utilize those talents, or not. Maybe you’re a gifted singer or sculptor. Maybe you’re the best cook in the family. Maybe you have the gift of being able to bring people together to accomplish a goal or complete a mission. Or maybe you’re really good at sales and marketing. Whatever you’re good at is a talent gifted just to you. So flaunt it. Explore and expand it. Share it with the world! But most importantly, be humbly grateful for it because no one else on the planet can do what you do the way that you do it.
  5. Your Hustle! You may already have your dream career (lucky you!), or you may just be working a job to pay the bills. Whatever it is you do, be thankful you have something. Your hustle may barely make ends meet now, but your basic needs are still being met. Even if you want to cuss out your boss, be happy you have a gig.

If things are hard for you right now, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. These are truly the times that test our souls. But so far, you’ve survived every single bad day that’s come your way.

So please remember that you have much to be thankful for, and try to enjoy the time you spend with your loved ones. Even if you’re flying solo this Thanksgiving, be grateful that you’re still here and still you … even as the world burns down around you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

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