By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said
Respecting and honoring all persons and their cultures is hard work in a society that privileges the majority culture. It requires honest acknowledgement that privilege allows some Americans to be knowledgeable and care only about their own beliefs and rituals. It requires dedication to learning about traditions beyond your own. And it requires resisting the temptation to see other cultures only within the context of your own. (i.e. believing Hanukkah is Jewish Christmas)
This all takes work. And, frankly, I don’t think most Americans wish to work hard at understanding other cultures. This time of year, the War on Christmasers balk at “Happy Holidays”–just a gentle acknowledgement that some Americans celebrate winter holidays other than or in addition to Christmas. But even the more evolved among us stumble, because rather than learning, say, what Winter Solstice or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa really are and what they mean to those who celebrate them, we prefer to simply be “inclusive.” And by “inclusive” I mean folks throw in a mention of these holidays from time to time during the season, usually conflating them with Christmas. Shove a Kinara or Menorah in the background of a talk show set or on a holiday graphic. Include other winter holidays in the consumerist frenzy that Christmas has become. And indiscriminately shout “Happy Kwanzaa” long before December 26.