Perspectives on Race

A Discussion about Events Concerning Race

Thanksgiving Costumes:Cute or Racsit?

with 2 comments

I came across this article the other day. What do you think?

It’s a tradition that’s been going on for 40 years. Every November, Claremont, California, kindergartners dress up like pilgrims and Native Americans for their annual Thanksgiving celebration.

Last year, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Claremont School Board decided to ban costumes that depict Native Americans at Condit Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary.

That means when kids show up for turkey and songs for their annual Turkey Day feast, they won’t be wearing the standard fringed vests or pilgrim-style black hats with the giant buckles, reenacting the (not entirely accurate) story of both groups sitting down for a feast.

Michelle Raheja, the parent who initiated the ban, is a member of the Seneca tribe. She complained that the costumes are “demeaning” and no different than allowing children to dress up like Nazis. “There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype,” she said.

Letting children dress up as Native Americans is not the problem, Jacqueline Johnson Pata of the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska and spokesperson for the National Congress of American Indians told momlogic. “What’s needed is an academic curriculum that more correctly depicts an honest history around Native Americans.”

Pata points out, “Thanksgiving is the one time of the year that people think about Native Americans.” That’s why she and other Native Americans are lobbying to make “Native American Awareness Day” a national holiday. “It would occur the day after Thanksgiving.”

But that might be a long way off. Today, kindergartners in Claremont had to leave their costumes at home — although one mom says she won’t stand up to the ban.

“They’re not going to tell us what we can and cannot wear,” said Dena Murphy, mother of a five-year-old kindergartner. “We’re tired of [district officials] cowing down to people. It’s not right.”

What do you think? Has political correctness gone too far?

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Written by porterd06

November 30, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I remember when we did this in kindergarten. We made headbands with feathers and beads and turned pillow cases into frayed vests. Looking back I can imagine that it would be a little demeaning to any actual native americans in the class. But at the same time, every year in elementary school we had to make christmas tree ornaments too, what about the jewish kids?
    Anyways, I agree with that one mother, if the kids are going to dress like native americans they should have to do research on traditional clothing and garments, and then recreate to the best of their ability or something.


    November 30, 2009 at 10:48 pm

  2. I did this too when I was young and I’ve never thought it was an issue. In fact, I think it’s a good thing because it actually makes people think about Native Americans. However, schools who wish to do this should definitely make sure to depict Native Americans as accurately as possible, which is sometimes difficult due to the fuzzy history of the early america. Also, I really like the idea of “Native American Awareness Day” and hope that it comes to fruition.


    December 1, 2009 at 3:37 am

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