When I was a teenager my stepmother decided we should start celebrating Kwanzaa. My sister was just a toddler at the time, and step-mom was sincerely concerned for her cultural identity. Though we lived in the “chocolate city” of Washington D.C., we were growing up in a multi-cultural lifestyle. I was from Canada and my mother and much of my family is white; my younger siblings went to school and daycare in a middle class atmosphere where there was a healthy mix of races; our parents socialized with people of all races and creeds. We had no lack of exposure to other lifestyles and perspectives. However, my stepmother was concerned that my little sister might grow up feeling distant from her own culture and inadequate in the face of her other friends with “good hair” or lighter skin tones. Her very genuine concern for her daughter and all of us led her to establish Kwanzaa as a Christmas alternative in our home. We hated it. It wasn’t Christmas. It was weird. And we couldn’t pronounce all the days of Kwanzaa. Kujicahgulia? Say that five times fast.
Eventually we stopped celebrating Kwanzaa and I never really gave the “holiday” any more thought until I had children of my own and became a conservative. As I’ve immersed myself in conservative thought and analysis I’ve often come across harsh criticism of Kwanzaa as a Marxist, separatist occasion. This Christmas season I began thinking back to my Kwanzaa days as we celebrated the birth of Christ, our Savior. I find Christmas to be not just a religious holiday in this country, but a cultural celebration as well. For those who do not embrace Christ, it still has a uniquely American flavor as we celebrate in this country. As Americans it’s a time we all spend together with our families, appreciating the beauty of the winter season, the lights, the food and the camaraderie. Everyone seems to be in a better mood at Christmas-time (except if you happen to be one of those Black Friday shoppers; those people can be ruthless!).
To me, Kwanzaa is not just cultural celebration; it is antithetical to the American spirit in general and flies in the face of everything the Christmas season represents in this country. Far from being a traditional celebration, Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, a convicted felon and influential leader in the Black liberation movement of the 1960’s. Dr.Karenga is currently a professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Karenga’s goal was to create a holiday as an alternative to the “white” celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah that would emphasize “Black” values and liberation. Far from the Christmas idea of a season of forgiveness and peace, Kwanzaa seeks to separate Black culture from American culture and emphasize the wrongs that have been perpetrated against the Black community. It does so under the guise of celebrating “African unity”, but reading the official Kwanzaa website dispels that notion. Kwanzaa is about division, and it uses 7 days, beginning after Christmas, to note that division. Marxism is explicitly reflected in the language of the celebration as “collectivism” and “solidarity”. Each of the seven days represents a different “principle” and is celebrated by the lighting of a candelabra called a kinara, not unlike the Menorah of Hanukkah. The website kwanzaa.com describes Kwanzaa this way: This holiday is observed from December 26th through January 1st. Again its focus is to pay tribute to the rich cultural roots of People of the African Diaspora…Its reach has grown to include all whose roots are in the Motherland. Its’ concept is neither religious nor political, but is rooted strongly in a cultural awareness…Gifts are given to reinforce personal growth and achievement which benefits the collective community.
Kwanzaa most certainly is political. Dr.Karenga is no fan of America or White people in general and his development of Kwanzaa is a consequence of that disdain. Today is the first official day of Kwanzaa. As we move through the seven days of Kwanzaa, I will break down each principle and why I feel it does not reflect American values and has no place as a “cultural celebration” in our American experience. Marxism and separatism have no place in a country built on the principles of individual responsibility and the inclusiveness of God. Over the next seven days we will explore the modern tradition of Kwanzaa and why I believe it has no place in the season we as Americans know as the Christmas season. To read about day one of Kwanzaa and the first “principle”, please go here. Also, please note: this is not written as a rejection of the importance of Black culture but to expose the false “tradition” of Kwanzaa as a Marxist, separatist holiday that does more to divide the Black community than unite it.