I received an invite to a “Whiskey Drinking” party. Who doesn’t love whiskey? I said yes, to the invite, as I do to just about every Facebook invite I get, and didn’t pay to much attention to the rest of the invitation.
My friend later told me that she too had been invited but that she didn’t want to attend the party because “They are inviting people to dress up as Pilgrims and Indians. I don’t want to go to a party where people are dressed-up as Indians and putting their hands to their mouths and making ‘woo’ ‘woo’ sounds. It is racist. I told my friend hosting it that I was uncomfortable with it and she told me that I could dress as a turkey. I tried explaining this didn’t address the issue of racism.”
I could see how my friend thought the party was racist but it didn’t quite hit me until I saw the pictures.
It was when I saw the pictures that I realized “Holy shit! My friends threw a whiskey drinking party, during thanksgiving weekend, handed out face paint as well as construction paper for paper feather headbands. When did it ever become okay to put paint on your face for enjoyment at the expense of an oppressed group?” When I expressed my concern to some of those in attendance I got different responses; “Well, some people were making fun of thanksgiving so they also added small pox face paint” or that face painting to be like another ethnicity was about as similar to my rainbow party costume, “It’s about as cool as dressing as a rainbow“, or that “Nobody actually *dressed* as indians, they put on construction-paper headbands and facepaint, kindergarten-style.”
Adding small pox does not take away the pain of painting yourself to represent an ethnicity or race. Comparing a rainbow during a political demonstration bringing awareness to bikes, to a hipster in a gentrified neighborhood dressed as a “Indian” during Thanksgiving lacks understanding of the oppression, genocide and overt and covert racism. One of the party hosts tried to explain to me why she party’s this way: “I celebrate Thanksgiving because it reminds me to be thankful for my wonderful friends, and whiskey, and a sense of humor, and facepaint, danceparties, music, old warehouses, and good times. Enough said.”
I am not chastising my friends for having fun, or dancing, or drinking, I love all these things (who doesn’t?!) I want people to have a good time, to acknowledge our childhood memories. However, some of the things we did as children were hurtful, we weren’t wrong as children, we were children, we didn’t know better. We know better now.
I guess my friends just don’t get it. I don’t know how to help my friends understand that their partying, like this, hurts me and offends me. Not only are they not trying to understand the pain caused, they are looking forward to the next event:
“Private party hosted by my girlfriend and some other friends. The original wild turkey pilgrims and Indians party was 3 years ago in Italian Village. It took place in Franklinton this weekend but not associated with any group or organization. I had a blast and look forward to 2011’s.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, if you asked them if racism was something we should tolerate they would all disagree. I just don’t know how to get them to see how their own actions are hurtful and racist. Maybe in June, we can hold a Juneteenth party, and put on black face, and drink forties, or if people are uncomfortable with that we can offer that they dress as watermelons?