Now I've always known that Kwanzaa was a bullshit holiday that some college professor and activist pretty much just made up. I knew the word is from Swahili, even though almost no slaves were taken from that part of Africa. I knew that is was a kind of attempt to get blacks to "reconnect with their African roots."
Okay, whatever. I'm a big boy. I know this country has never been a melting pot. At best, it's kind of a tossed salad. Sure, it's all mixed up, but it's kind of in clumps. You can have Polish festivals, Saint Patrick's Day parades, Mardis Gras, and Cinco de Mayo. But with those, everybody is kind of encouraged to be Irish for a day or urinate in public like the folk in Louisiana do. Is Kwanzaa like that too?
Not that it's widely practiced today, but it doesn't really have that inclusive vibe to it. Poking around for about ten minutes I discovered that it has kind of a mission statement. It has its "seven principles of blackness." Would I even be qualified to adhere to these principles? Maybe as a lilly white, rhythmless caucasian, I could pull off four out of seven?
So like the Jewish demi-Christmas, this shindig takes place for a week and you observe or emphasize one principle every day.
1) Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. (okay, not a bad thing. Take care of your kids. Don't shit where you eat. Love your country. Good advice all around)
2) Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. (define ourselves? Like people? Or blacks? Advocate for your race? Okay, still not crazy, but I'm not feeling as good about this one)
3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together. (Be organized and productive in the community? Okay, that sounds good. Get your neighbors together and clean out that vacant lot)
4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. (What, so black stores? Or support local business? Kind of getting a vibe here like in #2)
5) Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. (our people? Traditional greatness? I'm all for building up community, but I get anxious when people start talking about restoring anscestral greatness. A definite red flag here)
6) Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. (leave things nicer than when you got their is a philosophy that could literally make the world a utopia)
7) Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. ((hearing somebody say the words "righteousness" and "victory" in the same sentence (without the use of quotations) literally makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up))
I did a little looking into the guy who came up with this shit. Maulana Karenga was an activist and college professor who thought most black people just weren't black enough and was apparantly annoyed when he saw black men fully integrated into mainstream society. I get the impression that he would pronounce "ask" as "axe" in the proper company.
I had no idea how nutty and radical this guy was. First of all, he had a huge problem with the church. Now as much as you'd think this would endear him to me, he was a real douche about it. Karenga said "(Kwanzaa) was meant to be an alternative to Christmas, that Jesus was psychotic, and that Christianity was a white religion that black people should shun" Now these days, if you said that you were the son of God, you could walk on water, raise the dead, and you must be sacrificed to expiate original sin from the human race, you'd probably get put on some powerful medicine. But anybody who's ever been to a revivalist church knows that Christianity was practically MADE for the black man.
Knowing the frame of reference that it was conceived, Kwanzaa doesn't just sound like a bullshitty made up holiday, it sounds creepy and subversive.