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Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the biased lens of history

Counting the Cost

Julianne Malveaux | 12/5/2013, midnight

The Kwanzaa holiday, as created by Maulana Karenga, has its share of myth. Karenga developed Kwanzaa as a way of celebrating universal values that have special meaning for African American people. One of the principles is celebrated each day, ending on Jan. 1 with the final principle of Imani, or faith.

Crass spending and gift-giving is discouraged. It is true that Karenga “made up” the Kwanzaa holiday as a way of bringing African American people together to reflect on values, with the placement of it after Christmas as an alternative to the mutation of the Christmas holiday, and also as a holiday more meditative and secular than Christmas. Karenga must be horrified that the capitalists have been able to corrupt Kwanzaa with Kwanzaa cards on sale from commercial companies, using Kwanzaa more for profit-making than a contemplative occasion. In the name of cultural diversity, people walk around saying “Happy Kwanzaa” as if it is the same as “Merry Christmas.”

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are examples of the way we use myth either to denigrate or to elevate. The celebration of these holidays also reminds us of the biased lens of history, a lens that needs to be examined.

Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.

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