Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
“I am singing a song that can only be born after losing a country.” —Joy Harjo, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings
This is a brief analysis of letting go. I hope I didn’t just lose you after reading that, brave one.
Goodbyes are not easy, and many of us never had a proper model for how to say goodbye, how to let go of people and things with grace, care, and intention. This lack of know-how often manifests as hoarding, ghosting, and the very human fear of change and confrontation.
As a collective, how do we say goodbye to the structures and traditions that no longer serve, protect, and preserve us?
An example: Thanksgiving. Although there is a wealth of online material proposing the possibility of “decolonizing” this celebration of genocide, is it possible to decolonize a holiday that is inherently colonial in its essence? Can we truly create anew from its anti-Indigenous foundations? Is it enough to have conversations around its problematic roots with family or community members?
It must be said that the pillars of settler law are perpetuated when we do nothing beyond reflection and discourse instead of giving reparations to the land’s original inhabitants and organizing toward returning the land back to them. Reflection and discourse are essential to praxis, but the absence of praxis is essential to settler colonialism.
The work of decolonization is not to be romanticized, as real change is core to it.
Letting go of Thanksgiving might be easy for me to consider, as I did not grow up in a country that celebrated it. My attachments to it are loose, and it does not devastate me to scratch this holiday from my calendar. However, I recognize that even with my short-lived experience with Thanksgiving, I am not in denial about the lovely memories shared with friends and family when we observed it. Some of these experiences were memorable and beautiful. Other times, they were uncomfortable because of the tense political conversations at the dinner table.
All the same, I can understand why it would be difficult to let this tradition go. But letting it go does not invalidate the warmth I enjoyed over a shared feast with friends and family. My choice to divest from this holiday does not threaten the genuine happiness I felt in the presence of my community every last weekend of November. And I am also resolved and determined to no longer bring further harm to Indigenous communities and the loved ones in my life who belong to them by continuing this tradition.
As someone with Indigenous ancestry from a different colony, I can only imagine how it would feel offensive and disheartening to watch numerous families and communities around me make elaborate festivities that symbolize the conquest over my people, my ancestors, and the land. With that awareness, I choose to no longer invest in the gatherings that trigger past and present colonial trauma. I choose to no longer participate in this celebration of genocide and overconsumption, and instead seek alternatives to be in solidarity with Native communities toward the reconstitution of Indigenous consciousness and returning their ancestral land.
We are ready for this change, more than we were before.
The journey toward a new and liberated world will require endings such as this. It might hurt, and it will be disorienting.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon critiques: “Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder. But it cannot come as a result of magical practices, nor of a natural shock, nor of a friendly understanding. Decolonization, as we know, is a historical process: that is to say it cannot be understood, it cannot become intelligible nor clear to itself except in the exact measure that we can discern the movements which give it historical form and content.”
The work of decolonization is not to be romanticized, as real change is core to it. Change can be daunting and disorderly, especially when we are heading toward realities unknown to us. With the state of our world, liberation will feel unfamiliar, because oppression has always been pervasively familiar. Guante says, “White supremacy is not a shark; it is the water.”
It’s not only time to envision and create anti-colonial futures and alternatives together, but it’s also time to expand our mental and emotional capacity to default to these creative alternatives instead of deferring to the status quo—and, in this case, to divest from the status quo around what it means to give thanks as a community.
Is the death and rebirth of our expressions of gratitude in motion? Would you say yes to participating in its recreation, one that is possibly founded in giving reparations, raising awareness of Indigenous demands, and organizing in solidarity with Native communities toward LandBack?
If we are to aim for a new and possible world, it will entail ending the delusions and foundations that are antithetical to gratitude and belonging. We are ready for this change, more than we were before.
Our writings are birthed out of the interweaving conversations we share with others. This piece would not be possible if not for the times shared with kindred friends, especially those who have Indigenous and African ancestry. For this piece, I thank James Secretario and Travis Voboril for exchanging ideas with me.
Delfina Roybal shares alternatives to Thanksgiving in this Instagram post.
Gabes Torres is a psychotherapist, organizer, and artist. Her work focuses on anti-colonial approaches and practices within the mental health field. She also focuses on abolitionist organizing on a global scale. You can find most of her work on her official website, www.gabestorres.com, and social media platforms, including Instagram.